The Edmond Sun

Opinion

March 5, 2014

Education Savings Accounts are worth the fight

EDMOND — Throughout the course of a legislative session, many bills are proposed, discussed and voted on. Lots of times, good bills pass and become law. Sometimes, good bills focused on important topics do not make it to law. For one reason or another, it just didn’t receive the votes. That can even happen to measures that have widespread support.

Take last week, for example. That’s when House Bill 3398 was voted down in the Appropriations and Budget Committee. The measure would have created the Oklahoma Education Savings Act, a program designed to empower parents to direct the education of their children.

It’s a great program and I think it was wrong it didn’t survive this legislative session. It’s so important to me, in fact, I and the author of the measure, Rep. Jason Nelson, intend to bring it back in 2015 and continue to fight for parental control over their children’s educational future. I believe it’s the right thing to do and important for raising the educational levels of the state of Oklahoma.

Here’s more information on what HB 3398 would do for Oklahoma’s students and families.

First off, the ESA program would give parents control over a portion of public funds that would have been spent on their child in a public school. Traditional vouchers and tax credit scholarship programs offer parents the option to choose a private school. But with ESAs, families have additional flexibility to customize their child’s education using public or private schools, online courses, tutors and other education services. This flexibility is vital for students and families wanting a truly customized educational experience that is right for them.

Additionally, ESAs can be thought of as bank accounts designed specifically to take care of your child’s educational needs. The state would issue a debit card to access your child’s ESA to pay for books, supplies and whatever else might be needed to support educational pursuits.

The ESA setup is a true bottom-up reform that represents local control in its most basic form. This is in direct opposition of top-down educational mandates and setups we’re all painfully familiar with.

Opponents of this try to say that ESAs are anti-public schools and will hurt them financially. This is simply not the case. ESAs actually increase the per pupil revenue in public schools as more students take advantage of the program. This is very much a local, educational “rising tide lifts all boats” setup that President Ronald Reagan once referred to regarding lower taxes. ESAs can absolutely improve the situation for all students in Oklahoma, whether they take advantage of this program or not. Additionally, ESA students receive less than 100 percent of the per pupil revenue they would have generated in public school. That portion stays with the schools.

This plan is vital to the future of education in this state and I believe it can indeed make education better for every student in Oklahoma. I will fight for it again in the future because it’s that important.

 

TOM NEWELL serves District 28 of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He can be reached by phone at 557-7372 or via email at tom.newell@okhouse.gov.

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Poll

If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

Patrice Douglas
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