Who likes free-market competition?
California has a bipartisan push brewing for a school choice ballot initiative. If it gets enough signatures to make it onto the ballot in the November 2022 elections as a proposal for voters to decide, and California voters approve the measure, the “The Educational Freedom Act” would create Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) for each student in the state.
The signature drive for the California school choice ballot proposition has already begun. Californians for School Choice said in its October press release announcing certification by the California Attorney General’s Office to start gathering signatures that:
“California currently has nearly 6.6 million K-12 students. Six million attend public schools, 471,000 attend private schools, and another 84,000 homeschooled.”
The Educational Freedom Act would treat all K-12 students in California equally and be opt-in only, creating a state Education Savings Account for students upon request.
Then the state will allocate the student’s share of California’s educational funds to the ESA annually. The act will not make any changes to public schools, is designed to be tax neutral, and will only allocate to each student their share of state funds guaranteed to be distributed to public schools by the longstanding 1988 California Ballot Proposition 98 for public funding of K-12 education.
Any parent who wants to keep sending their K-12 student to public school can, but parents who want their kid to attend a private school can take their child’s share of the public funds for school and pay tuition for private education at any accredited school of their choice. The funds will start at around $13,000 per student and grow to over $14,000 as the state’s budget grows.
It’s not a “use-it-or-lose-it” savings account. The money rolls over. Funds that aren’t spent accumulate and can go toward college and other qualified educational expenses. They’ll return to the Treasury only if any are left unspent by the student aged 30.
When you start to look at all the costs of California public education that aren’t figured in by the Prop 98 method of determining a student’s share of public school funds, they add up to perhaps as high as $20,642 according to estimates from the California Policy Center.
That could mean a lot of savings for California taxpayers by eliminating a potentially sizable amount of the waste endemic to the public sector bureaucracy of the Golden State and other big states that suffer from affluence. Meanwhile, parents and students will choose their school just like they can choose so many different products and services that aren’t as important as education to most people. And the competition might force schools to act a little less like public sector departments and more like little businesses that strive to improve and treat their customers with the best service and get them the best results to continue earning their business.