A bill passed the Republican-controlled Senate Education Committee this week to set up ‘Educational Savings Accounts’ (ESAs), which would essentially serve as vouchers that would provide public taxpayer dollars to pay for private E-12 instruction and home schooling. Educational services include private school tuition, tutoring, and even electronic devices such as computers or iPads. The funding would be administered through the Department of Education and placed on a debit card for parental use.
During the next biennium, it is estimated that public schools across the state would lose $178 million due to the departure of students from their schools to private institutions and homeschooling. It will also result in a $23 million reduction in local school levy revenue because school district taxation authority is based on per-pupil counts. The bill gives non-public schools in the program complete autonomy from state regulations, so the state would not be able to hold voucher spending of taxpayer dollars accountable or be able to maintain transparency.
Vouchers undermine the state’s commitment to public education and have not demonstrated an improvement in academic outcomes in other states. They will allow private schools and home school instructors to take taxpayer money without implementing minimum teacher qualifications, academic standards, or student achievement benchmarks. This taxpayer-funded giveaway comes with no strings attached and will undermine the ability of Minnesota schools to provide a world-class education to our students regardless of where they live, their family income, or their social, racial, or cultural status. (SF 1525)