Washington, Idaho, Wyoming legislatures consider education savings accounts

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Published Sunday, February 12, 2023
by Jeremy Lott

(The Center Square) - Three bills are currently pending in the legislatures of three western states that would allow educational savings accounts, or ESAs, for students in those states.

The Idaho-based Mountain States Policy Center notes that of the three states considering such legislation, Washington's bill, HB 1615, would allow the most to be saved for education at $10,600. The Wyoming bill, HB 194, would allow $6,000, and the Idaho bill, SB 1038, would authorize $5,850 per state account.

Also, Washington's bill would make $10,000 in additional funds available for special needs students.

Mountain States does not give grades to these legislative efforts, but the think tank's president, Chris Cargill, expressed some opinions about their efficacy and political viability when asked.

"I think the Idaho Senate version is probably the strongest so far," he told The Center Square.

The downside to the Idaho bill was that he hadn't necessarily "seen enough support in both chambers to get it passed."

He judged the merits of the Washington bill "strong, especially for special ed kids."

However, he noted that it also has a cap on enrollment in the program of 94,100 students, or less than 10 percent of the total number of K-12 enrolled students in Washington state.

Cargill, who lived and worked in Washington for many years as the eastern Washington director for Washington Policy Center, also didn't believe the bill was politically viable, given the current Legislature.

"From what I've heard, the Washington bill is basically dead," he said.

He added that Montana isn't even currently considering an ESA bill.

"There is not an ed choice bill in the Montana Legislature," Cargill said. "There is an ed scholarship account, which can be ed choice in some ways, but it's not a full ESA."

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