Press Release: Cascade Policy Institute Research Shows Education Savings Accounts Can Foster School Choice While Boosting Per-Student Funding

February 9, 2023


Cascade Policy Institute
4850 SW Scholls Ferry Rd., Ste. 103
Portland, OR 97225

Media Contact:

Eric Fruits, Ph.D.
Office: (503) 242-0900

Portland, Ore. – Two new reports published by Cascade Policy Institute show that education savings account (ESA) programs do not reduce public school funding at the state level or for individual school districts.

The report, “Education Savings Accounts: A School Choice Solution That Can Save States Money,” examines the effect an ESA program would have on Oregon’s state budget. It finds that a universal program in which all Oregon students would be eligible—similar to Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts—would require only a 3% increase in state spending on K-12 education. Moreover, because many eligible students would not participate in the program, per-student spending for public school students would increase by 2%.

“Contrary to critics’ concerns, ESAs do not ‘defund’ public schools,” said Cascade Vice President of Research, Eric Fruits. “A carefully constructed ESA program can provide school choice to thousands of Oregon students, with no noticeable effect on the state budget.”

Another report, “Education Savings Accounts Can Boost Per-Student Spending in Public Schools,” evaluates the effect of an ESA program on local school district budgets. Cascade examined funding for every Oregon school district and found that if 5% of public school students used an ESA program to transfer outside of the government-run system, per-student spending for the remaining students would increase by an average of 1.7%.

Fruits adds, “Claims that an ESA program would cause a mass exodus from the public school system are simply wrong. In fact, there is no evidence that any ESA program in the U.S. has ever resulted in large-scale departures from public schools.”

Oregon students and families need more education options now. They cannot afford to wait years or decades for slow-motion policy changes. Oregon should join the rapidly growing number of states that have enacted education savings account programs. A universal ESA program would be a significant step toward quickly expanding access to the education options Oregon students need.

About Cascade Policy Institute: Founded in 1991, Cascade Policy Institute is Oregon’s free-market public policy research center. Cascade’s mission is to explore and promote public policy alternatives that foster individual liberty, personal responsibility, and economic opportunity. For more information, visit

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