Nevada has officially become the fifth state to create education savings accounts (ESAs), which allow families to make use of the funding that would have been spent on their child in the public school system to instead create a personalized education plan.
The program was signed into law by Governor Brian Sandoval, making Nevada the first state to offer ESAs to all students who had previously attended a public school. The state's first educational choice law was signed by the governor earlier this year, offering a limited scholarship tax credit. Each program increases educational choice in Nevada and lessens the issues of overcrowding currently troubling some of the state's districts.
When a child is taken out of their assigned district, 90% of the per-pupil funding, about $5,100, is taken by the state and placed in a private bank account that has restricted usage. Each family can choose how to use the funds as long as they go toward an educational use such as textbooks, tutoring, therapy, online schooling, homeschool curriculum, private school tuition, or a number of other educational products and services. Students with special needs and those from low-income families will receive 100% of the per-pupil funding. Any money not spent will roll over from year to year.
In other states, eligibility requirements are currently more restrictive. In Florida, Mississippi, and Tennessee, only special needs students qualify for ESAs. Meanwhile, Arizona had originally limited the ESAs to special needs students, but has since increased their reach to include foster children, children of active-duty military, students attending a failing school, and those living on Native American reservations.
According to survey data, parents in Nevada are happy with the new law, which are viewed as a more positive move over school vouchers.
"ESAs offer several key advantages over traditional school-choice programs. Because families can spend ESA funds at multiple providers and can save unspent funds for later, ESAs incentivize families to economize and maximize the value of each dollar spent, in a manner similar to the way they would spend their own money. ESAs also create incentives for education providers to unbundle services and products to better meet students' individual learning needs," reports Lindsey Burke and Jason Bedrick.
One limitation to the new program is that in order to qualify, students must have attended their previously assigned public school for at least 100 days. If students are assigned to a school that is failing, unsafe or not a good fit, they may not participate in the program until that time period has been fulfilled.
The state was recently voted most likely to succeed by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice in terms of the advancement of new school choice options, writes Lindsey Burke for The Daily Signal.