A study bill to create Education Savings Accounts and provide North Dakotans with school choice. This study will to gather all the facts as it relates to the fiscal impact on our public schools. This is a critically important that remove forward to give parents the education options that so many families are seeking.
The original bill was intended to establish Education Savings Accounts. However, it was converted into a study bill that will determine the feasibility of such plan, as well as the precise fiscal impact on our public schools.
What are ESAs?
Education Savings Accounts (or ESAs) will provide tremendous opportunity for parents in North Dakota to better guide the education of their children. This is the best and most practical School Choice program out there. Your education tax dollars follow your child (the student). This program requires minimal government involvement (like using accredited schools or teachers). If such involvement is not to your taste, you can continue to educate your children as you do now. No one is forced into this program.
How exactly does this work?
According to the original bill draft (prior to being turned into a study bill), if your child enters the ESA program, 75% of the state contribution to public school (about $5600) would go into the ESA each year. Initially, the ESA program will only be open to new children or a child that spent the previous semester in public school. Children currently home or private schooled do not qualify unless they go to a public school for a semester. This concession has been necessary in order to mitigate the fiscal impact of the bill in the midst of a budget shortfall. In a few years, it is intended that this program will be available to everyone. If this legislation fails to pass, in a few years it will still be available to no one.
Is this bill constitutional?
By our interpretation, the bill language is constitutional because the money follows the child, rather than going to a "sectarian" school, which is otherwise prohibited by the North Dakota State Constitution. Elsewhere, ESAs have held up to court challenges on this very argument.
Will this cost the state too much money?
The state saves money by only paying 75% of what it would normally spend to send the child to public school. Savings or loss depend on the ratio of "switcher" students, to non-switchers. However, not only do we expect that the fiscal impact over time will be favorable, but we expect, more importantly, the fiscal impact on families who want to provide a more quality education to their children will be lessened greatly.
What about homeschoolers?
Yes, homeschoolers can participate. This bill has been carefully crafted to address the concerns of homeschooling families as best as possible. One of its key sponsors, Rep. Daniel Johnston (D24) is a homeschooling parent himself. This bill allows for an "opt out" of assessment tests, just as you can do now.
Do your funds rollover?
Unused monies rollover, and at the end of 12th grade, they can roll over into a 529 College Savings Account.