Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is it possible for home-based education parents to be paid from the ESA to teach their children?

The parents are not eligible to be paid to teach their children from their child’s ESA as a home-based education tutor. However, the parents have the option to seek reimbursement from the ESA for qualifying educational expenses, which may include costs related to tutors not including themselves. However, it's important to note that tutors or vendors not featured on the ESA board's approved list will necessitate approval from the participating school where the child is enrolled.

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2. Can the CEO Act be susceptible to fraudulent practices like setting up sham schools to access student ESA funds?

The CEO Act not only incorporates but often surpasses the same protective measures utilized by California Public Schools to mitigate against fraud.

For a school to qualify for ESA participation, it must possess accreditation from a regional, national, or religious accrediting body. Alternatively, the school must conduct nationally norm-referenced academic testing for all students, excluding those with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), at least once every two years, commencing no later than the fourth grade.

To qualify for ESA funds, a school must submit an application for program eligibility to the ESA Board. A comprehensive list of eligible accredited schools is released biannually through both online and print channels.

Direct payment of ESA funds is made to the chosen eligible school, bypassing any involvement from parents. To ensure proper usage, schools must periodically affirm the enrollment and attendance of eligible students, with funds exclusively earmarked for tuition and approved educational expenses. Additionally, the school must provide annual evidence of accreditation or current academic testing results to both the ESA Trust Board and enrolled/prospective parents.

To enhance transparency, independent financial audits are conducted on an annual basis, with the findings submitted to the ESA board. Importantly, no sharing, refunding, or rebating of funds between the school and parent or student is permitted. In instances where there is an intent to defraud or misuse funds, the participation of a school, parent, or student can be suspended or terminated based on non-compliance with participation agreements.

These measures collectively reinforce the integrity of the ESA program and the schools associated with it.

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3. Do students who are part of the program need to adhere to the state's immunization regulations?

For students enrolled in a participating private school home-based education, their eligibility for ESA funding will not be compromised due to state immunization mandates as outlined in the Health and Safety Code. However, students enrolled in private or parochial schools are obliged to comply with the existing immunization prerequisites outlined in the state's Health and Safety Code.

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4. How does the CEO Act and Education Savings Accounts not raise taxes?

In 1988, California voters demonstrated their recognition of education's transformative power by approving Proposition 98, which commits a specific portion of the state budget to education funding. The CEO Act works within this framework by reallocating these funds to Education Savings Accounts for K-12 students. Instead of automatically channeling Prop 98 funds to government-operated public schools, the CEO Act empowers students to choose the education that best suits them – whether it's public, charter, private, parochial, or home-based education. The financial commitment remains the same, but the CEO Act provides students the agency to direct the funds to their preferred educational option, offering a broader spectrum of choices beyond the default public school system.

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5. Is a student's eligibility for the Education Savings Account linked to their immigration status?

The California Supreme Court has established that every child within California, irrespective of their immigration status, has the right to access education within the public school system. This principle extends to both the CEO Act and the Education Savings Account, ensuring inclusivity for all.

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6. Is there an income tax obligation for parents or students when they take part in the Education Savings Account program or receive funds from it?

Funds allocated to the ESA are exempt from income tax and are not factored into gross income calculations for earnings.

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7. The private, parochial schools, and home-based education options might not have sufficient capacity to accommodate the potential influx of students leaving the public school system if alternative education choices are presented to parents?

The exact magnitude of the student migration from California's public schools to alternatives like private schools, parochial schools, and home-based education remains uncertain. However, it's evident that a notable number of parents are dissatisfied with the current state of public education. This sentiment is reinforced by a survey of California's predominant Latino student body, revealing that 64.6% of Latino parents have contemplated transitioning their children to different educational settings.

Against the backdrop of a declining public education system, it's noteworthy that only 31% of California parents would opt for public schools if alternative avenues were available.

Anticipating the effects of removing financial barriers through the CEO Act to establish new schools, a potential scenario could unfold in the coming years. Teachers who were laid off during the pandemic or chose to exit the public school system might seize the opportunity to establish their own accredited institutions. These schools could offer lower enrollment, facilitating more personalized educational attention, which, in turn, could lead to improved standardized test scores. While the precise outcomes remain speculative, the potential for such shifts in the educational landscape highlights the significance of ongoing discussions about education reform.

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8. Why are individuals with higher financial resources not excluded from Proposition 98 funds and the CEO Act, given that they can already afford private, parochial, and homeschooling options without relying on these provisions?

The concern about the inclusion of the wealthy in Proposition 98 funds is a valid one. It's important to understand that these issues revolve around a complex interplay of educational policy, funding, and equity considerations.

While it might seem counterintuitive for the wealthy to benefit from these initiatives, there are a few aspects to consider:

First: One of the primary goals of education policy is to provide equitable access to quality education for all students, regardless of their race or family income. By ensuring that even those who can afford private, parochial, or home-based education  have access to these initiatives, the goal is to maintain inclusivity and avoid furthering educational disparities between income groups.

Second: The concept of choice in education allows families to select the educational approach that best suits their child's needs. This includes families from various socioeconomic backgrounds. Allowing the wealthy to participate in these initiatives acknowledges their right to choose and acknowledges the diversity of preferences and needs within the community.

Third: Crafting educational policy requires finding a balance between providing resources to those in need while also maintaining a certain level of flexibility and choice for all families. Striking this balance can be challenging, but it's essential for fostering a diverse and inclusive educational landscape.

Fourth: Determining a precise threshold for what qualifies as a wealthy income proves challenging. One approach could involve utilizing gross income figures from federal income tax returns. However, this path is complicated due to the deductions sanctioned by the IRS. Imposing an upper income limit to access an ESA also presents dilemmas, as families may adjust their income to meet the criteria. Furthermore, addressing qualification calculations becomes intricate when considering families that do not report cash payments in their IRS tax returns.

In essence, the aim of including the wealthy in these initiatives is not to provide them with unnecessary resources, but rather to create a balanced and inclusive educational environment that respects individual choices while addressing the broader societal goal of equitable education for all. This issue underscores the ongoing dialogue needed in education policy discussions to ensure that the needs of all students, regardless of their race or family income, are appropriately addressed.

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9. In the unfortunate event of a student's passing, what becomes of the ESA funds allocated to them?

Upon a parent enrolling their child in the Education Savings Account program, a designated beneficiary is established to address the disposition of the funds in the unfortunate circumstance of the student's demise. During the student’s lifetime, the beneficiary has the option to update the contingent beneficiary at any time.

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10. What measures are in place to prevent fraud in the home-based education scenario?

There are three types of home-based education.

First type is the Home-Based Private School called PSA which requires an annual filing of the private school affidavit with the California Superintendent of Public Instruction. The instructors, which are usually the parents, must be capable of teaching. The course instructions provided are those commonly taught in the public schools such as language arts, math, science, social studies, health, etc.

The second type is Private School Satellite Program also called PSP where the private school is in their own home and the majority of the instruction is provided there. Just like the PSA, an affidavit is filed with the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The Private School Satellite Program may be composed entirely of home educators or be an extension program of a campus-based private school.

The third is through instruction by a private tutor or parent having a California teaching credential. Families homeschooling under this option are not required to file private school affidavits or report any other information to the state. Families using the private tutor model must align with a private or school.

Home-Based Private Schools or PSA, are excluded from participation in the ESA due to difficulty verifying the student, opening potential of fraud and lack of accountability. The CEO Act wants to ensure Proposition 98 funds are used for its intended purpose.

The PSA homeschooling does not afford this protection and is not part of the ESA option.

Only the Private School Satellite Program PSP and the private tutor or parent having a California teaching credential qualified under the CEO Act. To help ensure quality education is occurring in the home-based education scenario, a parent must be affiliated with a participating private or school, which assumes the role of overseeing the student's academic progress.

Should there be any requisition for payment to tutors or other vendors, it necessitates approval from the designated participating school. The responsibility of validating that all payments adhere to the guidelines of the CEO Act falls upon the participating school. It's important to emphasize that the ESA funds are never handled directly by the parent.

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11. Why are not all home-based education types included in the CEO Act

Let's dive into California's homeschooling options.

There's the Home-Based Private School, PSA, where you file a private school affidavit, giving you the freedom to design your curriculum. Or explore the Private School Satellite Program (PSP), where the majority of instruction is at home, backed by a private school.

Then there's private tutoring, ensuring your child gets quality education from a credentialed teacher who can also be the parent if credentialed.

Be aware that the ESA funds are exclusively accessible to children enrolled in the Private School Satellite Program (PSP) or the private tutor model.

Students following the Home-Based Private School or PSA, are ineligible to participate in the ESA program due to the challenges in verifying the student's enrollment. This precaution is set in place to prevent potential fraud and to maintain accountability.

The CEO Act is committed to ensuring that Proposition 98 funds are directed toward their intended purpose. Regrettably, the PSA homeschooling is not covered by this protective measure and is not part of the ESA option.

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12. Will Public Schools Close due to the ESA

Other states are effectively using parental choice when selecting the best school fit for their child that include Education Savings Accounts and vouchers. To date, there is no case where a public school closed exclusively due to ESA and voucher use. One can’t blame the parents for being unhappy with the current California public schools when a survey shows California's majority Latino student population of 3.2 million have only 21% meeting math standards and 36% meeting English standards, despite high per pupil spending. The survey reveals 64.6% of Latino parents considered switching schools.  Also, amid the pandemic, California's public school enrollment dropped by 270,000 students.  Amidst the declining public education system, only 31% of California parents prefer public schools if given other options. A significant majority of Black (77%) and Hispanic (69%) parents prioritize improving K-12 education.

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13. Do participating schools and home based education parents need to adhere to government mandated curriculum?

The CEO Act explicitly outlines that private and parochial schools, as well as home-based education, are granted the autonomy to determine their own curriculum and educational content according to their discretion. Moreover, the CEO Act prohibits the imposition of curriculum, subject matter, student or faculty disciplinary policies, academic guidelines, or teacher credentialing prerequisites on participating schools. The Act also ensures that private religious schools cannot be excluded from participation based on the faith or religious criteria of their students or faculty.

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14. Could you explain the process of transferring the unused ESA balance to another ESA?

One of the remarkable features of the CEO Act is that after a student turns 18 years old, any remaining ESA funds can be transferred to the ESA of a family member linked by blood or marriage, or to a school participating in the program. This ingenious provision guarantees that ESA funds maintain their purpose of supporting individuals with strong family connections, including grandchildren, children, siblings, cousins, and beyond.

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15. Question: Is it permissible for non-profit 501(c)(3) religious and academic organizations to advocate for the CEO Act?

Non-profit organizations of the 501(c)(3) designation can express support or opposition to ballot measures, including the CEO Act. It's important to note that while they are prohibited from engaging in political campaigns for candidates, they are allowed to contribute to ballot measure committees and express their stances on ballot initiatives, referenda, and other policies that are put to a direct public vote.

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16. Will public schools close due to the ESA?

Other states are effectively using parental choice when selecting the best school fit for their child that include Education Savings Accounts and vouchers. To date, there is no case where a public school closed exclusively due to ESAs and voucher use. California’s government-run public schools receive $23,000 per student annually. In a class of 30 students, that is $690,000 to operate one classroom. Public schools do not have a revenue problem but a spending problem. The CEO Act forces the government-run public schools to be more efficient and competitive.

One can’t blame the parents for being unhappy with the current California public schools when a survey shows California’s majority Latino student population of 3.2 million have only 21% meeting math standards and 36%
meeting English standards, despite high per pupil spending. The survey reveals 64.6% of Latino parents considered switching schools. Also, amid the pandemic, California’s public school enrollment dropped by 270,000 students. Amidst the declining public education system, only 31% of California parents prefer public schools if given other options. A significant majority of Black (77%) and Hispanic (69%) parents prioritize improving K-12 education.

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