Legislation for Education Savings Accounts Offers Alternative to Controversial Vouchers

by Rusty Pugh and Jody Brown

(AgapePress) – A bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate that would give parents resources to help with their child's education using their own money, while avoiding vouchers that use public funds.

GOP Senator Tim Hutchinson of Arkansas and New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli have reintroduced a bill to create Education Savings Accounts. This proposal passed in the last Congress but was vetoed by Bill Clinton. Hutchinson says the bill would increase the amount parents could put into education savings accounts for educational purposes, without tax liabilities.

The Republican Senator says the bill would also expand who could contribute to the account, such as relatives, parents' employers, a union, or a charitable organization.

“It brings new resources to help prepare for a child's education. I think it's a very good approach,” Hutchinson says. “I support the concept of opportunity scholarships, which are commonly called 'vouchers.' But this [legislation] avoids the controversy around the vouchers because it's not using public funds — they're all private resources, but there's an incentive for them to be put into these funds because of the tax benefit.”

Hutchinson believes the ESAs will infuse billions of new, private dollars into education. The proposed bill would allow parents to set aside as much as $2,000 each year for each child. Permissible expenses would include tuition, home computers, tutoring, after-school programs, and school supplies and uniforms.

The two sponsors of the legislation say the ESAs will leave money in public schools while allowing families to take advantage of the private school option without draining money from public schools. That option, they say, is beneficial to public schools.

“Private schools play an important role in our society,” Senator Torricelli says. “They alleviate some of the burden on public schools, and if Catholic schools were to close, it would cost $16 billion to accommodate their students.”

According to the Joint Committee on Tax, 70% of the families who benefit from ESAs make less than $75,000. They also found that 75% of the parents who will use the accounts will be public school parents.

“Public education is no longer totally free,” Torricelli says. “There are numerous expenses that public schools just cannot afford.” He cited updated educational software, after-school programs, and private tutoring lessons as examples. “The burden for these costs falls to parents.”

The legislation was originally sponsored by the late Senator Paul Coverdell of Georgia. In his honor, the accounts are officially being called “Coverdell Education Savings Accounts.”

(This update courtesy of Agape Press.)

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