Arizona has introduced a program where they place 90% of the state’s portion of student funding into an account that parents can use just like an ESA. For those of you who don’t know, an ESA (Educational Savings Account) is a savings account with preferential tax status when the funds are used for education, so basically an IRA for education. The approved purchases for elementary and primary education include tuition, tutors, educational materials (books, computers, software, etc.), and special needs assistance. The biggest limitation of an ESA is that the total contribution must be less than $2,000 per beneficiary. To put this in perspective the per pupil funding in my district is above $15,000 per student.
What is great about this program is that it piggybacks on a Federally approved mechanism (ESA). This undercuts (though does not eliminate) church/state objections. Additionally unlike every other plan I have seen this one does not discriminate against homeschooling. That is, if you want to homeschool and use the funds to pay tutors and buy the best study equipment and educational experiences (museums, zoos, tours, etc.) you can. Our congressmen need to raise the amount that can be placed into an ESA so that the same program can be used in districts like mine. The state level funding in my district is $10,000 per pupil, and 90% of that would be $9,000 per student. The IRS tax code should allow at least that much to be directed into parent directed accounts. Honestly the limit should be tagged at something like the per-pupil expenditure in Washington D.C. since that is the expenditure that Congress controls most directly. If they believe that it should cost $20,000 to teach a 2nd grader then anyone ought to be able to pass $20,000 through an ESA.
I have some further ideas on how to implement charter schools in large and mid-sized districts, but this alone would be a huge improvement.