Two school choice proponents argue the merits of education savings accounts


Two school choice proponents argue the merits of education savings accounts

April 25, 2016—Education savings account (ESAs) provide parents with most or all of funds the state would have spent on a child’s education, allowing parents to pay for public school alternatives, such as tutoring, online courses, private school tuition, or a combination of other educational services.

Nevada is the latest of five states, including Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, and Tennessee, to pass ESA legislation. But education reformers disagree on the wisdom of such programs.

In this forum, Matthew Ladner, senior advisor for policy and research at the Foundation for Excellence in Education, argues that ESAs offer a grand advance over charter schooling and deserve the support of reformers. Ladner hails ESA programs as the mechanism needed to drive cost effectiveness in education. “An ESA system incorporates competition and thus encourages service providers to create and offer the best possible product at the lowest possible price.”

Nelson Smith, education policy consultant and senior advisor to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, argues that the latest incarnation of ESAs in Nevada poses substantial risks and threatens to disrupt an increasingly successful charter school movement. Smith also laments the possibility that ESAs will provide less choice than charters. “Private not [have an] obligation to openness, and nothing in the program’s enabling legislation directly addresses discrimination, further narrowing the chances that choice will be realized for those who need it most.”

Should Education Reformers Support Education Savings Accounts? ” will be available Tuesday, April 26, 2016 at and will appear in the Summer 2016 issue of Education Next, in print May 23. To request an embargoed copy or to arrange an interview with the authors, contact Jackie Kerstetter at

About Education Next: Education Next is a scholarly journal committed to careful examination of evidence relating to school reform, published by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School. For more information, please visit

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