Little Research, but Lots of Advocacy in New Report About Child Safety Accounts

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Key New NEPC Review Takeaway: In its push for a new voucher-like program, report offers little guidance for policymakers.

A recent Heartland Institute report argues for Child Safety Account (CSA) programs that would enable parents to access taxpayer dollars by asserting that their child feels unsafe in school. The CSA money could be used by the parents to transfer the child to another school, be it public, private, magnet, charter, or homeschool.

Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos and Gabriella Garriga of Trinity University reviewed Child Safety Accounts: Protecting Our Children through Parental Freedom, and found it to be lacking in research to substantiate its policy recommendations.

The proposed CSA program is a version of the education savings account programs that began in Arizona in 2011. The report begins with the well-supported finding that students encounter various forms of abuse throughout their school trajectory, including violent assaults, bullying, and sexual abuse. But it then offers a conclusion that is not well supported: that CSAs are a sound way to alleviate students’ suffering from these various forms of abuse in school.

The report does not explain how the new policy will be funded, nor does it provide criteria that must be met to access the CSA. Because eligibility appears to rest on a mere claim of safety concerns, the proposed policy could immensely change the landscape of school funding and complicate school politics by removing students from public schools.

While the report’s discussion about school bullying and other forms of abuse is timely, it fails to provide a clear set of steps to bring about change, opting instead to simply advocate for this form of taxpayer-funded vouchers. It also does not engage with the large body of research about evidence-based ways to address assaults, bullying and other safety issues. Accordingly, it is of little use to policymakers concerned about either school safety or school choice.

Find the review, by Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos and Gabriella Garriga, at:
https://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/child-safety-accounts

Find Child Safety Accounts: Protecting Our Children through Parental Freedom, written by Vicki Alger and Timothy Benson and published by the Heartland Institute, at:
https://www.heartland.org/_template-assets/documents/publications/CSAccountsPB.pdf

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William J. Mathis

Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos
Trinity University
(760) 405-3983
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