Idaho legislators draft legislation for school choice savings plan

Idaho legislators drafted a bill that would create education savings accounts (ESAs), giving parents up to $6,000 in scholarship money for education expenses.

“This gives parents flexibility and control to access learning services that work best for their children,” said Idaho Sen. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton, according to local KTVB 7 News.

The accounts could then be used for private school tuition, public school fees, technology costs and tutoring.

Even if a student chooses to leave a public school for a private school, 20% of the student funding would be left behind for the public school, said bill’s authors.

“It’s a pretty good win, still, for the public school,” Nichols said at a townhall meeting hosted at the capitol, Idaho News reports.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF), which championed the legislation, said eight states – Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia – currently have a version of ESAs. Missouri is also in its first year of an ESA program. 

IFF touts the flexibility of ESA’s, which allow parents to select a variety of education options such as private schooling and tutoring, instead of simply throwing all the dollars into the public school system.  

“Research shows that many parents use ESAs to customize their child’s education,” IFF argues. “In Arizona, for example, nearly 30% of parents use ESAs to purchase more than one educational service or product for their child. North Carolina’s results are even more conclusive. Data shows that 64% of ESA holders use the funds to pay for multiple products or services.” 

Sens. Ben Toews, R-Coeur d’Alene, Scott Herndon, R-Sagle, and Brian Lenney, R-Nampa, joined Nichols in presenting the draft legislation at the statehouse Thursday night.  

The legislation is just in time for the National School Choice Awareness Foundation’s celebration of School Choice Week.  

“Idaho has one of the most rapidly expanding populations, and school choice can play a key role in meeting the needs of Idaho’s current and future families,” said Andrew Campanella, President and CEO of the National School Choice Awareness Foundation.  

“Celebrations will highlight those who have benefited from school choice, and we hope their stories are a source of hope to all families navigating the school search process during School Choice Week,” added Campanella.