Expanded Education Savings Account Eligibility Gives More Education Options

By Josiah Dalke
October 14, 2021

When it is shown that a policy is good and effective, it is often necessary to branch out that policy to other areas that need it. For more than five years in Mississippi, the state has benefited from Educational Savings Accounts program. However, despite existing for so long and having shown to be beneficial, only a very small portion of students are eligible. Mississippi should revisit and expand this program.

An Education Savings Account assesses the funds that the state has already allocated to each student. Then, the fund allows that student’s parents to use those funds for sanctioned educational costs such as private school tuition, online learning programs, and private tutoring. Conventional education funding models apportion taxpayer dollars to the exclusive control of government education boards and bureaucrats. On the other hand, ESAs allow parents to choose the best way to use their child’s public education funds, if they decide to use it outside of public school administration.

However, across the United States, Educational Savings Accounts have been implemented differently, bringing various results. As it stands currently, there are eight states that have implemented Educational Savings Accounts into their educational systems: Arizona, Florida, Indiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Mississippi. States such as Indiana have broadened the eligibility of their Educational Savings Accounts program to a need-based system for students. Other states like Mississippi have limited eligibility only to those students with special needs.

Mississippi has certainly taken the right steps in providing this opportunity for students with special needs. However, broadening the eligibility for Educational Savings Accounts would give more students these alternative education options. Despite Mississippi’s Educational Savings Accounts program existing for more than five years, it still only makes up for about 0.06 percent of the state’s K-12 revenue. Additionally, only 19 percent of Mississippi students are eligible for the program, and only 0.1 percent of students across the state actually use this educational choice program.

In Mississippi, the problem goes beyond merely increasing awareness. Instead, the Educational Savings Account program in Mississippi is limited to only a small group of students. Mississippi would do well to expand the program, as other states have done.

For instance, in addition to providing accounts to special needs students, Arizona has expanded its program eligibility. This expansion now applies to those who attended a “D” or “F” ranked school, have been adopted in the state’s foster care system, and those whose parents were killed in the line of duty. This has aided a little less than a quarter of Arizona students, and the program continues to grow.

In West Virginia, the state has expanded its ESA eligibility to 93 percent of its student population. This policy has given West Virginian students and parents the ability to determine where their allocated education funding will go instead of leaving those decisions exclusively in the power of education school boards and bureaucrats. Students can attend public schools if they opt to do so, but the funds follow the student if they decide to pursue other educational options.

Mississippi has taken good steps in providing school choice to its students, but the policy is too limited in scope to be more than five years old. Expanding Education Savings Account eligibility would give Mississippi parents the choice to decide where their student’s education funding should best be spent.


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