February 14, 2017

14 Myths and Facts about Educational Savings Accounts or ESAs

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  • MYTH #1:  ESAs/vouchers do not affect public school funding.
  • FACT:  Giving more taxpayer money to private schools means less money for our public schools and other essential state services. The state legislature is currently under-funding public schools, so there is NOT enough money to fund ESAs without pulling funds from public schools.

 

  • MYTH #2:  ESAs/vouchers would not add to the Iowa state budget or take away from existing programs.
  • FACT: Money for ESAs/vouchers would be a new expense in the state budget. Funding for ESAs/vouchers would need to come from tax increases, a deduction from the current public school budget, or a reduction in other departments’ funding.

 

  • MYTH #3:  Iowa public schools are fully funded.
  • FACT:  For 7 of the last 8 years, public school funding has seen increases below the cost of inflation. The insufficient funding has forced cuts at the local level, including staff reductions and elimination of programs, leading to larger class sizes and consolidation of rural schools.

 

  • MYTH #4:  ESAs/vouchers enable every child to choose a school.
  • FACT:  Private schools are under no obligation to admit any student. They do not have to accommodate special needs or physical impairment, and can discriminate on race, gender, religion, or other factors.

 

  • MYTH #5:  School choice programs benefit all children and families, regardless of address or income.
  • FACT:  ESAs/vouchers do not guarantee a child can afford an alternative to public schools. Families would still face obstacles of providing transportation and paying the remaining share of tuition. Transportation becomes a more pronounced issue in rural areas.

 

  • MYTH #6:  Local funding for the child using an ESA/voucher remains with the public school district.
  • FACT:  The funds follow the child. Local funds are only a portion of what pays for each child’s education. For most school districts, the vast majority of funds come from the state and follow children to their school of choice. Each child enrolled in a non-public school reduces funding for the district. ESAs/vouchers are a direct drain on Iowa’s public schools and will  directly reduce Iowa’s public education funding.

 

  • MYTH #7:  ESAs improve outcomes.
  • FACT:  There is no nonpartisan evidence to date that ESAs/vouchers provide a route to better education or higher achievement by students.

 

  • MYTH #8:  ESAs and school choice programs benefit rural communities.
  • FACT:  ESAs/vouchers would hurt rural communities. They have reduced access to non-public schools and already face significant transportation costs. With each student lost, each public school receives reduced funding, which can be devastating for rural communities.

 

  • MYTH #9:  ESAs and school choice programs benefit lower-income families.
  • FACT:  ESAs/vouchers hurt lower-income families. There is no guarantee that an ESA/voucher will fund the entirety of private school enrollment. ESAs/vouchers do not provide funds for additional needs such as meals or transportation.

 

  • MYTH #10:  ESAs and school choice programs benefit students needing additional assistance.
  • FACT:  ESAs/vouchers would not benefit students needing additional academic support, such as students with learning or behavioral challenges, children on the autism spectrum, children with Down syndrome, or English Language Learners. Private schools typically deny admission and do not serve these children. Public schools have no option to deny any child

 

  • MYTH #11:  ESAs and school choice programs would benefit public school students in Iowa.
  • FACT:  ESAs/vouchers would hurt every public school student in Iowa. ESAs do not improve educational outcomes. According to the Journal of Public Economics, they foster isolation and segregation by race, socioeconomic status, disability, and language.

 

  • MYTH #12:  The state could prevent misuse of ESA funds.
  • FACT: ESA/voucher funds that go to private or home schools are not audited and have no safeguards to prevent against fraud. Whereas public schools have to be 100% accountable to taxpayer dollars and adhere to the state’s mandated oversight and standards, private and home schools do not have this accountability. Non-public schools are exempt from the state’s oversight and do not have to meet the same educational or assessment standards.

 

  • MYTH #13:  ESAs do not harm public schools.
  • FACT:  ESAs/vouchers divert state taxpayer dollars away from public schools and public schoolchildren.

 

  • MYTH #14:  ESAs are different than vouchers.
  • FACT:  ESAs = Vouchers. It’s just semantics. They are two mechanics that achieve the same thing. Both result in state tax dollars going to private schools, at the expense of public schools.