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December 2012 Policy Study, Number 12-13


Education Savings Account:

A Path to Give All Children an Effective Education and Prepare Them for Life





In the years between A Nation at Risk, released in 1983, and the Council on Foreign Relations’ U.S. Education Reform and National Security, published in 2012, the conventional wisdom about U.S. public education has not changed. The council’s report opens with “It will come as no surprise to most readers that America’s primary and secondary schools are widely seen as failing,” which is eerily similar to A Nation at Risk’s now-iconic words from three decades earlier: “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”[28]


In the years between the two reports, lawmakers have paid schools more tax money, have attempted to lower class sizes by hiring more teachers, and have enacted various other institutional reforms.


Those top-down reforms have not changed the trajectory of student achievement. What is more, advances in technology are changing the way we consider education. Online and hybrid schools, along with free educational content through YouTube and iTunes, have helped shift the focus of a child’s experience from the schoolhouse to, well, any house. Parents and children need to be able to pursue education wherever it is found. Education savings accounts allow them to do just that. The accounts are a model for what education in the 21st century should look like: flexible, innovative, and child-centered.



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