Editor’s note: This commentary from Nathan Benefield, senior vice president of the Commonwealth Foundation, appeared Wednesday on Pittsburgh’s post-gazette.com.
Flooding public schools with more money won’t deliver educational opportunity for every student. Equitable opportunity requires that every student has access to the educational environment that best meets their needs. And the best people to decide the environment that best meets their needs are their parents.
This isn’t a distant ideal. It’s already a reality for an increasing number of students across the nation.
In March, Florida became the fourth state this year, following Arkansas, Utah, and Iowa, to create universal education savings account programs for students. ESAs provide educational resources to families, allowing parents to decide how best to spend funds (typically $7,000 to $8,000) on expenses, including private school tuition, home school curriculum, or special needs tutoring.
ESAs deliver opportunity for students who otherwise only have one option: their zip-code-assigned institution. In states with ESA programs, education funding follows students to the environment of their choice, rather than constraining students to a one-size-fits-all system.
Pennsylvania should join the rest of the nation in passing ESAs. Our state has an education crisis, but it’s not for lack of funding. Pennsylvania education funding far exceeds national averages, with public schools spending almost $20,000 per student, or $4,000 more than the national average.
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