When Apple introduced the iPod 10 years ago, the product received mixed reviews. One industry analyst suggested the large storage capacity was a plus but added that iPods would struggle in a market already dominated by companies such as Sony.
How times have changed. Today, with a market share of 75-80 percent, iPods have forced everyone to figure out what to do with their old CD collections. Great ideas have a way of taking over and make us forget what life was like before we had them.
Over the past decade, school-choice programs changed the way we look at the world, too. In 1998, one year after Arizona’s tax credit scholarship program was passed into law, four school-tuition organizations awarded 244 scholarships to private schools. In 2010, 53 tuition organizations awarded 26,453 scholarships. Likewise, there were 47 Arizona charter schools in 1995, but today 524 charters serve 123,633 students. The one-size-fits-all model of education has gone the way of the CD player.
Last week, the East Valley Tribune reported that 75 students are participating in the state’s latest innovation: education savings accounts. These accounts provide families of special-needs children the freedom to use student funds for a variety of educational expenditures including therapy services, textbooks and tuition at online education programs. The accounts are funded at 90 percent of what the state would normally spend to educate that child, creating a cost savings for Arizona with each student who accesses the accounts.
Currently, only special-needs students are eligible to participate, but all Arizona students could benefit from this program. For example, over 10,000 Arizona students attend schools labeled chronically failing, and education savings accounts could help these students now and prevent them from being underserved for another year.
With these savings accounts, parents can customize their child’s education so that they are being challenged and prepared for the real world. All parents should be allowed this choice.
Goldwater Institute: Special needs students can apply for education savings accounts July 1
Goldwater Institute: Education Savings Accounts: Giving Parents Control of Their Children’s Education
East Valley Tribune: State approves 75 ‘empowerment’ accounts in voucher-like program