The NH legislature is considering an Education Savings Account (ESA) proposal, Senate Bill 193, that would greatly expand educational options for many families. ESAs are funds that children receive to a designated account that are used for specified educational purposes. Approved uses often include school tuition, online educational programs, tutoring, textbooks, AP classes, assessments, and other education-related fees. Currently five states offer ESA programs and each is a little different regarding approved uses, eligibility, administration, accountability mechanisms, and funding. The two most established programs show tremendous success and parent satisfaction. ESAs have withstood constitutional challenges and enrollment is optional.
NH’s proposed ESA is very broad with approved educational expenses and eligibility; homeschoolers qualify in SB 193. The accountability requirements only pertain to the administration of the program (auditing their financials); there are no testing or evaluation requirements and homeschool statutes are unchanged. The funding is 90% of the state adequacy money (not the portion from local taxes) which is currently $3600 plus any differentiated aid the home district would receive for students in grades 1 and above; 50% for Kindergarten students. With 5% going to the non-profit organization that administers the program, the state keeps 5% as an immediate savings. The district keeps all the local tax dollars allocated to their schools. Financial experts testified that the state and districts would have significant savings – a net positive impact on school districts of $59.7 million – if NH implements an ESA program.
It is critical to note that this ESA is very different than the one proposed in Texas that would impose reporting requirements on families, particularly homeschoolers. While SB 193 does not have any academic accountability mechanisms, families should remain vigilant – just as we always should – to ensure any future efforts to impose limitations and “strings” are averted.
Read more in Education Savings Accounts: The Next Evolution of School Choice which explains the basics of ESAs and SB 193. It also includes several links. For more info on the evidence of school choice programs, read A Win-Win Solution by EdChoice.