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Report: School Safety Crisis Requires Child Safety Accounts

March 11, 2020
By Natalie Meckel

A Child Safety Account (CSA) program would empower parents to determine when their child’s school is too dangerous and transfer them to a safe school immediately.

The United States is experiencing a public-school safety crisis that requires education options for parents, a new report states.

Four out of five government schools report incidents of violence, states a policy brief from the Center for Education Opportunities at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News.

The study by Vicki Alger, a Heartland policy advisor and a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum, and Timothy Benson, a Heartland policy analyst, titled “Child Safety Accounts: Protecting Our Children through Parental Freedom,” was released on November 26.

“Parents’ transfer options are typically limited to other public schools within their resident districts, and these schools often do not have the space to accommodate transfer students,” Alger told Budget & Tax News.

Calls for Expanded Options

Alger and Benson recommend a new policy to protect students whose safety is compromised. A Child Safety Account (CSA) program would empower parents to determine when their child’s school is too dangerous and transfer them to a safe school immediately. A type of Educational Safety Account (ESA) specifically dedicated to student safety would remove the cost barrier for parents who cannot afford other options, says Alger.

“In addition to tuition, CSA funds could be used to pay for transportation to another school, as well as textbooks, uniforms, testing fees, and special education therapies, among other qualified educational expenses,” Alger said.

When a CSA is activated, state funds equal to the annual public school per-pupil expenditure—which averages nearly $12,000 per year—would be placed in an ESA. Parents would then receive a restricted-use debit card from the state to use for their child’s educational expenses.

“For parents that require more funding, states should implement tax-credit scholarship programs that allow individuals and businesses to make charitable donations to nonprofit scholarship organizations,” Alger said.

Immediate Relief Proposed

Parents with a “reasonable apprehension” regarding their children’s safety would be eligible to receive a CSA account.

“CSAs let parents transfer their children immediately to the education provider of their choice regardless of where they live, without having to wait years at a time for their current schools to receive a bureaucratic label,” Alger said.

CSAs have been proposed in nine states: Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, Nevada, Oregon, Virginia, and West Virginia.

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) has proposed federal legislation to establish CSAs in Washington, D.C., where public schools are pervasively dangerous.

Concern for Government System

The greatest barrier to CSA legislation is concern for the effect of CSAs on enrollment in government schools, Alger says.

“Too many elected officials are led to believe that protecting parents’ fundamental freedom to choose the educational provider they think is best for their children hurts district public schools,” Alger said.

Decades of research show school choice doesn’t harm government schools, says Alger.

“Competition for students helps students who participate in choice programs as well as students who remain in district public schools,” Alger said.

Natalie Meckel (nmeckel@hillsdale.edu) writes from Hillsdale, Michigan.

Internet Info

Vicki Alger and Tim Benson, “Policy Brief: Child Safety Accounts: Protecting Our Children Through Parental Freedom,” The Heartland Institute, November 26, 2019: https://www.heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/policy-brief-child-safety-accounts-protecting-our-children-through-parental-freedom

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