Springing forward on educational opportunity

Published May 8, 2023

WORLD Opinions

The pandemic forced a reimagination of education that continues to unfold. As schooling was interrupted for two and sometimes three years, parents discovered creative ways to cover gaps in their children’s impromptu remote learning. Some found new learning environments that were better suited to their children. Many others sought such alternatives. Now, innovations in policy and instruction that give parents more options are gaining momentum across the country. Midway through the spring of 2023, educational opportunity has already leapt well ahead of previous years’ progress.

Fourteen governors promoted parental choice in education during their annual state addresses in early 2023. Their proposals have taken a variety of forms, but most noteworthy are universal education savings accounts (ESAs). In the first three months of the year, four states have already enacted universal ESAs.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law on March 27 that will make ESAs available to all students in the state. Arkansas Gov. Sarah Sanders signed legislation creating universal ESAs in early March, just two months after she took office. Iowa and Utah enacted similar policies back in January. That makes a total of six states with universal ESA laws on the books, including West Virginia and Arizona, where policy was enacted prior to this year. About 12 percent of the student population across the country will be eligible to access an ESA as a result.

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Jennifer Patterson is director of the Institute of Theology and Public Life at Reformed Theological Seminary (Washington, D.C.) and a senior fellow with the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Jennifer Patterson is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Her work focuses on projects related to religious freedom and overcoming poverty, drawing on her more than 25 years of experience in public policy.

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