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Congress Considers D.C. Child Safety Account Bill

May 22, 2019

H.R. 2538 would establish a Child Safety Account (CSA) program in the District of Columbia.

Parents of students facing safety concerns in Washington, D.C. public schools could move their children to a safer public or private school under legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN).

H.R. 2538 would establish a Child Safety Account (CSA) program in the District of Columbia, which is under the control of Congress and receives federal funding. Parents of students concerned about their safety in D.C. government schools could receive money for a variety of education options such as private school tuition.

CSAs address the growing problem of bullying and violence in schools, says Banks.

“School safety and the well-being of children is every parent’s number one concern,” stated Banks in a May 7 news release on the day he introduced his bill. “In today’s complex world, school safety problems have become more prevalent.

“Unfortunately, too many students are trapped in unsafe schools,” said Banks. “This Child Safety Account program will give families choices to pursue educational opportunities that keep their children safe and secure.”

How CSAs Work

Each CSA would be funded at 80 percent to 90 percent of the “DC uniform per student funding formula,” said Banks. Families would be eligible for the program regardless of income.

A parent or guardian would submit a request to District school administrators stating their safety concern, and if their claim is deemed to have merit, receive a CSA.

The school safety problems that would qualify students for a CSA are “bullying, sexual harassment, abuse, and/or misconduct, gang activity, fights, suicide attempts or threats, shootings, drug use, special safety needs, food safety needs, health related safety issues, acts of violence against student, and other safety concerns,” said Banks.

The CSA could be used for “tuition, textbooks, tutoring, transportation to and from a qualified school, therapy to cope with a safety incident, and other required education materials.”

“This program would help give more D.C. families, no matter their income level, much greater access to the schools best-suited for their children and their unique safety and educational needs,” said Tim Benson, a policy analyst at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News.

CSA Option ‘Long Overdue’

Nationwide, more than 20 percent of students reported being bullied in 2017, with nearly 70 percent of those being bullied multiple times, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Though one-third of parents fear for their child’s safety at school, most have very limited options, says Benson.

“Under the current federal Unsafe School Choice Option it’s virtually impossible for a public school to be designated unsafe,” said Benson. “Fewer than 50 out of nearly 100,000 public schools nationwide are labeled persistently dangerous each year.”

“It is long overdue that parents in one of the most dangerous school districts in America are provided a safe education choice, and Child Safety Accounts can make that possible,” said Tim Huelskamp, president of The Heartland Institute. “I congratulate Congressman Banks for his decision to stand up for these victimized students and their families.”

States Consider CSA Solution

The concept of CSAs was developed by The Heartland Institute, which has worked with federal and state legislators to promote the idea.

“Heartland also worked with Colorado state legislators to get a CSA bill introduced in the Colorado House of Representatives earlier this year,” said Arianna Wilkerson, a state government relations manager at The Heartland Institute. “CSA-style legislation has been considered in six other states so far this year: Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Nevada, West Virginia, and Virginia.”

The CSA concept is applicable in every state, says Banks.

“While the scope of this bill is currently restricted to one city, it is my hope that the success of the program inspires more states to adopt similar policies and help children feel safe and free to learn at school,” said Banks.

Joe Barnett (joepaulbarnett@att.net) is a research fellow with The Heartland Institute.

Official Connection:

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN): https://banks.house.gov/

Internet Info:

Tim Benson, “Research & Commentary: Indicators of School Crime and Safety Underscore the Need for Child Safety Accounts,” The Heartland Institute, May 1, 2019: https://www.heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/research--commentary-indicators-of-school-crime-and-safety-underscore-the-need-for-child-safety-accounts

Author
Joe Barnett is a research fellow and managing editor of Budget & Tax News, a publication of The Heartland Institute
jbarnett@heartland.org