Education Savings Accounts: Advancing Choice in States with Blaine Amendments
In 2011, Arizona lawmakers enacted the nation’s first law establishing Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). The state deposits a portion of a child’s allotted funds from the state education formula into a restricted-use bank account that parents use to buy educational products and services for their children. Parents and students can use the accounts for online classes, private school tuition, and a variety of other learning experiences.
After lawmakers enacted ESAs, teachers unions and other special interests challenged their legality in court. Arizona unions based their suit on the state’s Blaine amendment, which prohibits public funds from flowing to religious institutions.
Such lawsuits against private school vouchers have alleged that these scholarships constitute state aid to religious institutions. Yet nearly 30 percent of Arizona ESA families are making multiple education decisions simultaneously in determining how and where their children learn. ESA funds are not reserved for specific schools or education providers, which makes all appeals to the Blaine Amendment void.