Archive | Education savings accounts

Arizona is the next Nevada, so who is the next Arizona?

Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona signed a universal education savings account (ESA) bill into law Thursday night, making Arizona the second state to pass a universal ESA program.

However, Arizona may be the first state to actually implement a universal ESA as the Nevada Supreme Court struck down the Silver State’s funding mechanism last year. ESAs in the Grand Canyon State have already survived a constitutional challenge.

Although the program is theoretically universal, with 1.1 million students in the state eligible, it will allow only limited growth until it reaches a cap of 30,000 students by 2022. Continue Reading →

Fla. House panel backs private school choice bill after spending changes

Scholarship parent Tiffani Hinds testifies before the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

Private school choice legislation received bipartisan backing this afternoon from a Florida House panel.

As approved by the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee, HB 15 would increase the funding each student receives through the state’s tax credit scholarship program. Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog, helps administer the program.

The committee removed from the bill provisions that would have expanded the conditions that would allow students to qualify for Gardiner scholarships and tripled funding for the program, which provides education savings accounts for children with special needs. (Step Up also helps administer Gardiner scholarships.)

Legislators also removed a provision that would have allowed students to receive McKay scholarships — vouchers for special needs students — without attending public schools for an entire school year.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, said the provisions had to be removed to maneuver through the state budget process. She said she hoped to revive them as lawmakers revise their spending plans. Continue Reading →

Bill would boost Florida special needs scholarships


The nation’s largest education savings account program would triple in size under a bill filed yesterday by the Florida Senate’s lead education budget writer.

SB 902 by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, would boost funding for Gardiner Scholarships from $71.2 million to $200 million.

It would also expand the list of conditions that allow students to qualify for the scholarships, which are available to children with specific special needs. The bill would make scholarships available to hearing and visually impaired students, those with traumatic brain injuries and those who are hospital or homebound.

The scholarships are designed to be worth approximately 90 percent of the amount the state would spend to educate a child in public schools. Parents can use the money to pay for private school tuition, homeschool curriculum, therapies, public-school courses, college savings and other approved education-related expenses. Continue Reading →

School choice programs adapt to help young adults with special needs

When people learn Robert Breske is the father of a teenager with Down syndrome, they sometimes tell him they’re sorry. That isn’t what he wants to hear. He’ll tell them children like his soon-to-be-15-year-old son, Bobby, have changed his life — and the world — for the better.

“They are closest things to God,” he said during an event earlier this month at Orlando’s Morning Star Catholic School, a faith-based special education center Bobby attends. “They are that way all through their whole lives.”

Bishop Noonan

Bishop John Noonan blesses a new transition facility for young adults with special needs at Morning Star Catholic School in Orlando.

In recent decades, advances in medicine and early intervention programs have made their lives richer and longer than ever. And that has created a new set of questions for parents like Breske, whose special-needs children will need to prepare for life as adults.

Public policy is starting to adapt. Recent federal legislation created savings accounts that can help adults with special needs pay their living expenses. New Florida laws promote college and career-training programs. And schools, both public and private, have expanded programs aimed at preparing students like Bobby to get part-time jobs and care for themselves.

The elder Breske was helping unveil a renovated house at Morning Star. The structure once housed nuns on the 56-year-old school site, but it’s been converted to help students in its young-adult transition program learn how to cook, clean and live independently. Recent changes to Florida educational choice programs mean similar programs could soon be growing at private schools around the state.

“We all know we’re going to away one day,” Breske said, describing the anxiety many parents feel as their special needs children grow older. “And what’s going to happen to them?”

Camille Gardiner, who also has a son with Down syndrome, said parents like her were less likely to face that question a generation ago. In the 1970s, children born with Down syndrome were only expected to live into their 20s. Now, their life expectancy is about 60. As a devout Catholic, she said, “I have come to realize that being pro-life does not end at the birth of a child. In many ways, that’s where it starts.”

Continue Reading →

The next Nevada? These are the states to watch for education savings accounts

Nevada’s universal education savings accounts were the most far-reaching educational choice program ever created, but they suffered a setback earlier this year when the state Supreme Court ruled the funding mechanism unconstitutional.

November elections swept pro-school choice Republicans from power. Potential legislative fixes a likely bargaining chip between Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Brian Sandoval, meaning it’s an open question whether the program will ever get funded.

While Nevada’s fate remains uncertian, educational choice advocates are looking to other states to follow up with legislation that might match its scope and ambition.

There’s no question education savings accounts will be on the agenda in state capitals all over the country next year. They’ve been passed by legislatures in six states and signed into law in five. A total 18 states drafted, studied or introduced ESA bills in 2016, and this fall’s elections may have tipped the political balance for educational choice in statehouses around the country.

Observers and education reform experts gathered in Washington last week for the Foundation for Excellence in Education conference had some ideas for states worth keeping an eye on.


The top choice of Robert Enlow, the president of EdChoice, Iowa already has a tax credit scholarship program.

Iowa lawmakers actually drafted a universal ESA bill a whole month before their Nevada counterparts back in 2015. But despite 24 co-sponsors, the proposal never gained traction. Another ESA bill to create a smaller pilot ESA program for 190 students could only make it out of a subcommittee in the Republican-controlled House.

The November elections may have changed the political calculus. Republicans gained control of the state Senate, and now observers across the political spectrum seem to believe some form of ESA legislation is in the works. Continue Reading →

Jeb Bush: Time to shake up education policy



The incoming Donald Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress have a “real opportunity to bring wholesale disruption in education in America,” Jeb Bush told a gathering of education reformers in Washington. And, he said, he hopes they seize it.

Speaking at the start of the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s annual conference, the former Florida governor said the 2016 elections, in which he came up short in a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, reflected a loss of faith in core American institutions, which need to be dramatically reinvented.

When it comes to education, he said, Congress and the new presidential administration should tap into that hunger for change.

“I hope there’s an earthquake as it relates to education funding and education policy,” he said. Continue Reading →

Another left-leaning case for the new definition of public education

Milton Friedman and his free-market ideas may have been anathema to the political left, but he was right about one thing: School choice.

Daniel Grego, the director of Milwaukee’s TransCenter for Youth and an acolyte of the likes of Ivan Illich and Wendell Berry, made that case in the journal Encounter. His argument, outlined in a 2011 article we stumbled upon recently, is worth highlighting, in part, because it reinforces a theme we’ve explored on this blog for quite some time: The left-of-center appeal of educational choice.

“It is time for people on the left to overcome ‘the nonthought of received ideas’ and admit that giving poor families resources is a progressive public policy,” Grego wrote.

The writer helped lead an ill-fated effort, backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to bring more “small schools” to his city. An article in Milwaukee Magazine said he was intent on ending “the longtime war” between public-school supporters and advocates of the city’s pioneering school voucher program.

And while he wound up sharing Friedman’s conclusions about the benefits of educational choice, he followed a different intellectual path to arrive at that position.  Continue Reading →

Survey: Millennials more likely to support educational choice

Members of the generation that arguably has the most at stake in today’s education debate may also be the most likely to support various forms of school choice.

That’s the takeaway from a recent survey by EdChoice. It found millennials (which it defines as adults ages 18-35) are more likely than older generations to support private school vouchers, tax credit scholarships and education savings accounts. They may also be slightly more likely to support charter schools, but the generational divide there is not statistically significant.

EdChoice, previously known as the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, oversampled millennials in the latest version of its annual “Schooling in America Survey,” talking to more than 500.

Millennials are more likely than older generations to support educational options. Source: EdChoice.

Millennials are more likely than older generations to support educational options. Source: EdChoice, “Millennial Perspectives.”

Continue Reading →