ESAs in the NYT

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The New York Times has a story on the progress of the school choice movement. Money quote on Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program:

The Arizona Legislature last May expanded the eligibility criteria for education savings accounts, which are private bank accounts into which the state deposits public money for certain students to use for private school tuition, books, tutoring and other educational services.       

Open only to special-needs students at first, the program has been expanded to include children in failing schools, those whose parents are in active military duty and those who are being adopted. One in five public school students — roughly 220,000 children — will be eligible in the coming school year.       

Some parents of modest means are surprised to discover that the education savings accounts put private school within reach. When Nydia Salazar first dreamed of attending St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Phoenix, for example, her mother, Maria Salazar, a medical receptionist, figured there was no way she could afford it. The family had always struggled financially, and Nydia, 14, had always attended public school.       

But then Ms. Salazar, 37, a single mother who holds two side jobs to make ends meet, heard of a scholarship fund that would allow her to use public dollars to pay the tuition.       

She is now trying to coax other parents into signing up for similar scholarships. “When I tell them about private school, they say I’m crazy,” she said. “They think that’s only for rich people.”


3 Responses to ESAs in the NYT

  1. Ayn Marie says:

    The final sentence notes, when referring to education scholarships for only specifically identified groups of students: “They think that’s only for rich prople.”

    Arizona’s politicians have left out a whole “bunch” of middle class citizens who are also unable to afford private school for their children and whose children may not be best served by what the education system has to offer. Politicians decide who benefits and who does not.

    • allen says:

      And we decide which politicians get to make that decision.

      Limiting the program to the poor’s just part of the political deal necessary to make it happen at all. A small, real crack in the monolithic facade of the public education system’s is, to my mind, better then a broader, unrealized victory. Bird in the hand and all that.

      The real problem with voucher programs that’ve been passed is the first sentence of that paragraph – “When I tell them about private school, they say I’m crazy.”

      Vouchers are a bridge too far for the majority of the people they’re aimed at. They have to take this scrap of paper and enter a private school, their child in tow, with knowledge that they are too poor to afford the school and thus have no business therein. Ignorance and lack of confidence will, over time, be overcome but proponents of vouchers ought to making efforts to reduce both since those voucher-getting adults are a prospective constituency in support of vouchers.

      The teacher’s unions and lefties who support the current system aren’t going away any time soon and they’re not without political resources so the building of a counter-constituency ought to be an important agenda item for education reformers.

  2. matthewladner says:

    The point of the person is that the program brings options to a group of people who otherwise would not have them. Politicians have to make decisions regarding eligibility for public programs- that is part of what we elect them to do. If you think the program eligibility should be broader I agree but to their credit Arizona legislators are way out in front of the school choice curve when compared to most of their peers around the country.

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