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An Education Savings Account is not a "voucher"

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

As Idaho, Wyoming, Washington and Montana all consider bills to create Education Savings Accounts (ESA) for children and their families, opponents have attempted to label ESA's as vouchers.

If you oppose education choice, it's understandable. Polling shows vouchers do not have the same amount of support as ESA's. The word "voucher" has a negative connotation, which explains why so many opponents keep saying "ESA vouchers."

The problem is there's no such thing as an "ESA voucher" - in fact, ESA's are very different from vouchers. Many lawmakers don't understand the difference.

A voucher program would let parents use taxpayer dollars to pay for tuition at a private school approved by the state. Typically, the state writes a check to a school in the name of a student to cover tuition.

An Education Savings Account is much different. First, money is held in an account by the state - it is not given directly to schools. Second, an ESA allows parents to use a portion of state funding on a variety of education services. Yes, it can include private school tuition, but it can also include tutoring, special needs services, curriculum, mental health treatment and much more - so long as it is for an educational purpose.

In the end, ESA's are given directly to parents via a state fund, whereas vouchers are given to schools or a specific institution.

Our Idaho Poll showed strong support for education choice - when citizens understand what it is. Explaining the difference between ESA's and vouchers is part of that process.

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