- Virginia public schools spend over $13,000 per student a year. At least some of that funding should follow the child to wherever they receive an education. Tweet This
- Power-hungry unions have overplayed their hand and awakened a sleeping giant. Parents are the new special interest in town. Tweet This
- The incoming governor should make it even clearer that he values parental involvement in education by calling on the legislature to send an expansive education savings account bill to him as soon as possible. Tweet This
Editor's Note: In the second essay in our week-long symposium of family-friendly public policy ideas for Virginia's new administration, Corey A. DeAngelis of the American Federation for Children makes the case for education savings accounts.
Glenn Youngkin owes his gubernatorial victory, in large part, to parents who want more of a say in their children’s education. During his victory speech, the Virginia Governor-elect mentioned that “we’re going to introduce choice within our public school system” and that “we’re going to embrace our parents, not ignore them.”
The best way to guarantee that promise would be to fund students directly and truly empower families to choose the education providers that best meet their children’s needs. After all, education funding is meant for educating children, not for propping up and protecting a particular institution. Virginia public schools spend over $13,000 per student per year. At least some of that funding should follow the child to wherever they receive an education—whether it be a public, charter, private, or home school.
The momentum is on the side of parental rights and educational freedom. Families across the nation have figured out that there isn’t any good reason to fund failing, closed institutions when we can fund students directly instead. Indeed, the latest RealClear Opinion Research polling found that support for private school choice surged by 10 percentage points—from 64% support in April 2020 to 74% support in June 2021. Another recent nationwide poll, conducted by Morning Consult, found that 78% of Americans supported the gold-standard of funding students directly—education savings accounts—in 2021. Another Morning Consult poll indicates that 80% of Virginia parents now support education savings accounts.
2021 is the year of funding students, not systems: 18 states enacted or expanded such programs—and the number of states with education savings accounts doubled from 5 to 10—this past year. West Virginia, for example, did not have any private school choice programs or charter schools in 2019, but their lawmakers just passed the most expansive education savings account program in the nation. Glenn Youngkin should push for similar parental empowerment in Virginia.
In fact, Mr. Youngkin’s 2021 gubernatorial opponent, Terry McAuliffe, vetoed multiple education savings account bills that made their way to his desk in 2016 and 2017 when he was Virginia’s governor. The incoming governor should make it even clearer that he values parental involvement in education by calling on the legislature to send an expansive education savings account bill to him as soon as possible. With such a program, the full state portion of each child’s taxpayer-funded K-12 education funding—or about $5,500 in Virginia in 2019—could be used by their families to cover approved education expenses, including private school tuition and fees, tutoring, instructional materials, online learning, and special needs services.
Teachers unions have historically been a powerful special interest group in K-12 education. But their monopoly on other people’s children’s education is over. Power-hungry unions have overplayed their hand and awakened a sleeping giant. Parents are the new special interest in town, and they aren’t going away any time soon.
Corey DeAngelis is the national director of research at the American Federation for Children, an adjunct scholar at Cato Institute, and a senior fellow at Reason Foundation.
*The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or views of the Institute for Family Studies.