Expanding school choice via education savings accounts could save New York taxpayers

Editor’s note: This article appeared Saturday on nypost.com.

Research is clear that expanding school choice — empowering parents to choose educational options for their children outside traditional district schools — provides benefits for families, communities and society. But these programs have an ancillary benefit beyond improving schools, one that New York’s political class isn’t in a position to pass up: saving state and local governments money.

With the Empire State in the throes of a budget disaster — a problem that’s sure to get worse if rich Manhattanites continue to leave the state — policymakers should ask themselves what they could do with an extra nest egg to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. That type of money is exactly what expanding school choice could provide.

Specifically, a new paper looks at the savings New York could generate by creating an education savings account program, a school-choice mechanism by which families withdraw their children from public schools in exchange for public funds they can then spend on education.

The money — often distributed via debit card — can be applied to a variety of pre-approved pursuits such as private and parochial school tuition, online learning programs, tutoring services or other approved customized learning services and materials, depending on what families decide is best for their child’s needs and goals.

An ESA program would be a win for the parents of New York, who have already signaled their desire for alternative education options for their children beyond what traditional district schools can offer. Consider that enrollment in the city’s charter schools and Jewish schools, for example, is way up from fall 2019 to fall 2020.

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