Jim DeMint / May 12, 2016

Texas Can’t Afford to Miss Out on School Choice

Last week I had the good fortune to be in Texas discussing conservative policy solutions with hundreds of dedicated men and women in San Antonio, Austin, and Houston. One of the big topics of conversation was freedom in education: How can we offer young Americans the best education possible, while ensuring that each family can freely choose and afford the schooling that fits its needs?

Last week I had the good fortune to be in Texas discussing conservative policy solutions with hundreds of dedicated men and women in San Antonio, Austin, and Houston.

One of the big topics of conversation was freedom in education: How can we offer young Americans the best education possible, while ensuring that each family can freely choose and afford the schooling that fits its needs?

Publicly funded education savings accounts provide a promising path forward. Through an education savings account, parents would receive 90 percent of the state per-pupil funds that would have been spent on their child in the public school system. They can then use those funds to pay for private school tuition, online learning, special education services and therapies, textbooks, curricula, and a host of other education-related services, products, and providers.

This gives families flexibility, and saves tax dollars for other projects — or just keeps them in our wallets. It’s a win-win.

As one of our panelists in Houston explained, Texas can’t afford not to embrace education savings accounts.

Matthew Ladner, of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, explained that by the year 2030, the population of K-12 students in Texas schools will grow from about 4.7 million students to nearly 6.4 million, while at the same time, the population of Texas residents aged 65 and older will boom from 2.5 million individuals to over 5 million people.

These populations are less likely to be in the workforce (because they may either be in school or retired), and are more likely to use services (such as the K-12 education system). This could be a major strain on the Texas budget, and only hastens the need to find ways to make K-12 dollars work better for students.

Importantly, parents can even roll over unused funds from year-to-year, and can save for college.

That’s what the Ashtons were able to do for their son Max. The Ashtons live in Arizona, which pioneered the concept of publicly funded education savings accounts in 2011. Max is legally blind, and was able to use his education savings account to pay for private school tuition, and also purchase all his braille materials, his talking computer, and all of his other assistive technology.

The Ashtons were even able to save thousands of dollars a year, and roll those unused funds into a college savings account that they use to pay Max’s tuition at Loyola Marymount University. For 90 percent of what the state was spending on Max, he was able to attend Brophy College Preparatory, purchase all the assistive technologies he needed to be successful, and still have money left over to pay his college tuition.

This is what’s possible when we fund the student instead of the system, and allow education dollars to be completely portable. Education savings accounts are the way forward, and the citizens of Texas should be eager for their state to be the next to adopt publicly funded education savings accounts. And they should make them universally available to every student in the Lone Star State.

Most of the Texans I spoke to agreed. They look forward to setting an example to the rest of the nation, and joining the growing number of states that put students and families first.


Republished from The Daily Signal.

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