Jason Riley: The Next Step is Education Savings Accounts

March 1, 2017


(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Jason Riley weighs in on ESAs, federalism and parental choice in his Wall Street Journal column today:

After years of federal overreach through No Child Left Behind, Common Core and Obama administration “guidance” on lavatory usage, the states—where Republicans now occupy 33 of the 50 governors’ offices—are not only reasserting local control of K-12 education but reimagining it.

In addition to this charter progress, education reformers see prospects for more private school choice in the form of education savings accounts, or ESAs, which they describe as the next step in school choice. Under an ESA system, money that would otherwise go to funding a child’s public-school education is instead placed into a restricted-use bank account, from which the family can withdraw to spend on a variety of education-related services. Like vouchers, ESAs allow the money to follow the child. But ESAs don’t limit education options in the way that vouchers do. Instead, families can use money in the account for tuition, textbooks, tutoring, test preparation, transportation, Advanced Placement courses, online learning and even college savings accounts.

Jason Bedrick, a policy analyst at the research organization EdChoice, told me that along with allowing families to tailor spending to the education needs of their children, ESAs can control costs. “Moving from a coupon or voucher model to a bank-account model helps guard against tuition inflation like we’ve seen in Pell Grants,” he said. With ESAs, “there’s no price floor. If you’ve got a $5,000 voucher, no school is going to charge less than $5,000. With an ESA, there’s a lot more competition because private schools are not just competing against each other and against public schools but also competing against other sorts of education opportunities.” In other words, a parent with an ESA has the ability to hold both public and private schools accountable.

Does President Obama care more about black criminals than black schoolchildren?

May 7, 2009

Jason Riley asks the question in the Wall Street Journal

His answer: 

“Unfortunately, the Obama administration seems more interested in the sentencing gap than the learning gap. The president pays lip-service to the need to open pathways to educational achievement, but he and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have been actively working to shut down Washington, D.C.’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides low-income children with $7,500 per year to use toward tuition at a private school. Mr. Obama can’t claim that the program isn’t working. The latest evaluation by his own Education Department showed scholarship recipients — 99% of whom are black or Hispanic — outperforming their public-school peers in reading. That finding takes on even more significance when you consider that black 12th-graders in this country average lower reading scores than white 8th-graders.

Yesterday, the administration announced that it will support allowing current students to remain in the program but will oppose letting any new kids join them. The illogic is exquisite. If the president believes that school vouchers are effective enough to grandfather existing participants, the scholarship program deserves to be expanded, not shuttered.”