Education choice effort moves forward in California

Approximately 200 elementary, middle and secondary schools that are members of the California Association of Independent Schools would be positively impacted by the Educational Freedom Act.

Education reform activists in California have filed a school choice initiative with the state’s attorney general’s office that they expect to put before voters for approval.

The Educational Freedom Act would require the state to establish an education savings account for every school-age child if his or her parent or guardian requests it. Students who have reached the age of 18 would be eligible to make the request directly.

For the 2022-23 school year, the state would be required to put $14,000 into the account, a sum that would be adjusted every year by the state Department of Finance to reflect changes in per-pupil spending. Every student eligible for enrollment in public school from kindergarten through 12th grade would be entitled to an account.

Parents would be able to use the funds to enroll their child and pay tuition in any eligible school of their choice. Unspent funds would roll over to the next year and eventually could be spent on post-secondary education.

The measure, which specifies that the money must come at no additional cost to taxpayers, would create an education savings account Trust Board to oversee the financial aspects of the program. Funds would only be paid to the eligible school, not to the parents.

The State Superintendent of Public Instruction would publish a list of eligible schools and would be required to create an online application for schools that wish to participate. The state would be prohibited from limiting the number of eligible schools or the number of students enrolled, and would be barred from imposing any conditions on a school’s eligibility to receive funds, other than certification that the student is enrolled and attending, certification that the money is used only for tuition and eligible expenses, standardized testing for accreditation as defined in law, annual independent financial audits and general health and safety standards.

Parents could choose private schools, religious schools or vocational education. Homeschooled students also would be eligible if they are enrolled in an eligible school that facilitates homeschooling.