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Taxpayers in Hawaii spend about $1.8 billion on education every year, which is 15 percent of the annual state budget. To fairly distribute funding to each individual school, the Department of Education (DOE) uses a weighted student formula; in other words, the more students a school has, the more money it receives. However, if parents decide to send their child to private school or enroll their child in a home-based learning program, their tax dollars will continue funding the public school system, effectively forcing parents to pay for two separate educations.

Recently, Nevada became the 5th state to legalize Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) — a program which empowers families to seek alternatives to public education. Karen Gray, Citizen Outreach Director at Nevada Policy Research Institute, explained how the ESA program functions. “If a student, say, were to leave their public school because they moved to California . . . their school district would not receive that money from that student,” said Karen, “It’s the same thing . . . if the student goes into the ESA program, the money would go to the family.”

If parents choose to enroll their children in the ESA program, they are not limited to private schools or home-based learning. “Parents can use this money to pay for curriculum, they can buy textbooks with this money, they can pay for tutoring, educational therapies — it really is in control of the parents,” said Karen.

Although Education Savings Accounts are beginning to gain traction across the nation, few people in Hawaii are talking about the program. If you want to learn more, you can visit www.nevadaesa.com. This interview was recorded as part of The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii with Dr. Keli’i Akina, a radio show on KAOI 1110AM Maui.