Rep. Carolyn Eslick introduces ‘Students First’ program to empower parents, improve students’ educational outcomes

The program would give parents control over where to direct their share of education-related state funding    

On Thursday, State Rep. Carolyn Eslick, R-Sultan, introduced a bill that would allow parents to use their share of state education funds for private or home-based education.

House Bill 1615 would direct the Washington Student Achievement Council to establish and administer the Students First program, which would fund education savings accounts (ESAs) for individual students.   

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. 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.

Parents with participating students would receive a debit card that can only be used for education-related expenses, such as private school tuition, fees, textbooks, and uniforms; tutoring; exam fees; homeschool curriculum; education-related therapies; postsecondary education; and more. The account transactions are subject to audit, and parents are required to keep their receipts.

To apply for the Students First program, a student must be a Washington resident eligible to enroll in a public school; however, students cannot participate in the program while attending a public school.      

“We have a constitutional mandate to provide for the education of all children in Washington state,” said Eslick. “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.”

Washington students’ state and national test scores have been trending downward in recent years. On the most recent State Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) assessment, less than 38% of all Washington students met grade-level standards in math, and roughly half were able to do so in English language arts.

“As a state, we’re falling behind and failing in our mandate to provide every child with a quality education,” said Eslick. “Parents want the best outcomes for their kids, yet they don’t always have the means to set them up for success. 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 this Thursday, Feb. 2nd, at 8:00 a.m.

To sign-up for public testimony, visit and select “Education” under “Committee” and “02/02/23 8:00 AM” under “Meetings.”

Video of the hearing will be available on TVW here:

To read more about student performance and the state’s K-12 system as a whole, visit


Washington State House Republican Communications