OLYMPIA — State Rep. Carolyn Eslick (R-Sultan) introduced a bill on Thursday that would allow parents to use their share of state education funds for private or home-based education, according to a statement from Eslick's office.
"We have a constitutional mandate to provide for the education of all children in Washington state," Eslick wrote in the statement. "This program would empower parents to do what is best for their child regardless of income level or zip code while meeting the state's moral and constitutional obligation to put students first."
The bill, House Bill 1615, would direct the Washington Student Achievement Council to establish and administer the Students First program, which would fund education savings accounts for individual students, the release said.
The program would prioritize ESAs for students eligible for special education services, students whose families are low-income and those in failing schools. Each ESA is funded based on the amount of money the state allocates per student to public schools to provide basic education.
Parents of participating students would receive a debit card that can only be used for education-related expenses such as private school tuition, fees, textbooks, uniforms, tutoring, exam fees, homeschool curriculum, education-related therapies and postsecondary education. The account transactions are subject to audit, and parents are required to keep their receipts, the statement said.
In the first year, students would receive more than $10,600, and students eligible for special education services would receive about $10,000 in additional aid. To apply for the Students First program, a student would have to be a Washington resident eligible to enroll in a public school; however, students cannot participate in the program while attending a public school.
"Parents want the best outcomes for their kids, yet they don't always have the means to set them up for success," Eslick wrote in the statement. "This bill would be the first step in giving them the resources they need to help their child achieve their dreams and take full advantage of the educational choices in our state."
The House Education Committee is holding a public hearing on the bill Feb. 2 at 8 a.m. Video of the hearing will be available on TVW here: tvw.org/watch/?eventID=2023021062.