Educational Savings Accounts

The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Austin, is pushing the state legislature to allow for Educational Savings Accounts (ESA). In a policy paper, the organization states ESAs will address government school funding issues while giving parents more educational choices.

ESAs are a step in the right direction, albeit a very small step. While ESAs will give parents more choices—which is good—the state government will remain involved in education—which is bad.

The paper describes how the program would work:

Education Savings Accounts provide an exciting opportunity for Texas children and the quality of life for future Texans. ESAs will allow parents to customize educational services for the specific needs of each of their children. Participating parents would agree to accept less than the cost to the state for public school education, and in doing so, would receive an account which could only be used to purchase educational services such as accredited private school tuition, online educational services, books, tutors, therapists, public school services, testing, etc. The account would be accessed through a limited-use debit card and be subject to audit to avoid fraud and abuse.

Taxpayers would continue to finance the program. And the state government would dictate how parents could legally use the money.

Like many ideas proposed by conservatives, ESAs are touted as a market solution to the state’s education problems. And like most of those ideas, ESAs are a mixture of government control and individual freedom.

The operative word in “free market” is free—the absence of coercion. But the ESA program will abound with coercion. Taxes will be forcibly collected from Texans. Parents will be forced to spend the money on educational services. And private schools will be forced to meet the state’s dictates if they are to receive payments through the program. While throwing a few crumbs to parents, the state will remain firmly in control of education in Texas.

A truly free market solution would mean removing government from education entirely. It would mean no tax money would be used for education. It would mean no government controls on schools. It would mean no dictates to parents regarding the education of their children.

A free market recognizes the moral right of each individual to produce, trade, and consume the values of his choosing. ESAs do very little to move Texas toward a free market in education.

Comments are closed.