Arizona Approves Funds for Private School Fees

In Education, States On
- Updated

The law expands the use of money from the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program, known as an E.S.A. Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee have similar programs, but they all restrict eligibility to disabled children. That makes the Arizona expansion the broadest to date.

Unlike traditional vouchers, in which states pay private schools directly, E.S.A.s allow parents to distribute public dollars for educational expenses.

In 2015, Nevada passed an empowerment scholarship bill that would have allowed any former public school student access to use an account, but last year, the State Supreme Court halted the program, saying its financing mechanism would harm public schools. The program is on much firmer legal ground in Arizona, where the state’s top court declared the accounts constitutional in 2014.

This year, about 3,500 Arizona students, the majority of whom have special needs, are participating in the program. The average size of an account is $5,700 per year for children without disabilities and $19,000 for children with them. The funds are distributed via debit cards.

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Roberts: Arizona’s leaders just failed Arizona’s schools

Thursday was an important day — the day when Gov. Doug Ducey and the Arizona Legislature began the wholesale segregation and possibly even the eventual annihilation of Arizona’s public-school system.

Oh, it won’t happen overnight. The destruction begins not with outright evisceration but with a more surgical approach.

And so, after years of starving the schools, comes Senate Bill 1431/House Bill 2394, expanding the state’s voucher program to allow any child to attend private school with a help of a public subsidy.

Read article from AzCentral newspaper

Arizona Victory Emboldens School Choice Supporters

School choice supporters already hope to broaden Arizona’s newly expanded education savings account program that allows any parent to seek public funds for private schools, even as teachers and school groups decry the most expansive such law in the country.

Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, signed the law April 6, opening up eligibility for the accounts, known as ESAs, to any of the state’s 1.1 million students. In a last-minute compromise, the law capped the number of students receiving the voucherlike funds, at about $4,400 per child a year, to some 30,000 students after 2022.

Victor Riches, the president of the Goldwater Institute, an Arizona-based group that advocates for school choice nationally, said Arizona’s law will be seen as a model as other states and the federal government seek to expand private-school-choice options under President Donald Trump’s administration. The group will seek to lift the cap on Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts if there is demand.

“It’s a huge issue for Arizona, butit’s also a big issue at the national level,” Riches said. “With the passage of this bill, Arizona becomes the first state to have genuine school choice.”

Read article from Education Week

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