Arizona Offers All Children School Choice; Oregon Should, Too

By Kathryn Hickok

This summer, Arizona expanded the nation’s first Education Savings Account (ESA) program. Every child in Arizona is now eligible to choose an Empowerment Scholarship Account. Parents who want to opt out of their zoned public schools can choose to receive 90 percent of the state’s per-student base funding (about $7,000 in 2022). They may use their Empowerment Scholarship Accounts for tuition, homeschooling, tutoring, online education, education therapy, or other services.

State-level education funding in Oregon is allocated per child and paid directly to district schools, regardless of poor outcomes or parent dissatisfaction. It’s time Oregon provided parents with a “money-back guarantee” for education. Converting a portion of state-level funding to portable education accounts for students would empower parents to find the best fit for their children to succeed.

Families increasingly believe one-size-fits-all public schools don’t work for all children, and recent polls show an overwhelming majority of voters support school choice. A program like Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts would increase Oregon students’ opportunities, improve outcomes, reduce burdens on struggling districts, and make schools accountable to the parents and students they are meant to serve.

Kathryn Hickok is Executive Vice President at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization, and Director of Cascade’s Children’s Scholarship Fund-Oregon program. CSF-Oregon has provided private scholarships worth more than $3.5 million to lower-income Oregon children to help them attend tuition-based elementary schools since 1999.

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