State Policy Network
Arizona expands school choice program to help students access more education options

In a significant win for Arizona students and their families, the Arizona Governor signed a bill that expands the state’s Empowerment Scholarship program to all students in the state.

Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship program is similar to an Education Savings Account (ESA) program, which allows parents to access state-supervised funds to pay for a wide variety of education options. The state government deposits a portion of what the state would have spent to send the child to public school into a private account that parents can use for education-related expenses, including textbooks, private school tuition, and tutoring.

The Goldwater Institute pioneered this innovative policy solution and helped Arizona become the first state to pass an ESA program in 2011. However, only certain students, including those with disabilities or those who live in a low-performing school district, could access the program.

Under the new law, the state’s 1.1 million K-12 students are all eligible—making it the most expansive school choice program in the country.

Arizona’s new program will help millions of students access a quality education they deserve

In Arizona, like the rest of the United States, where you live determines where you go to school. That leaves millions of families across the country with one option: public school. For many students, their public school is a great fit. But for many others, including students who have disabilities, who are bullied, or who live in a low-performing school district, their public school doesn’t always fit their unique needs.

Wealthier families often have more education options—they can afford to send their child to a private school that performs better academically, for example. Lower-income families aren’t always able to pay for alternative education options, leaving them with only one choice. ESA programs like Arizona’s newly expanded Empowerment Scholarship program address this inequality and give all children access to an education that fits their needs. With an ESA in hand, Arizona’s lower income families now have the same opportunities as wealthier families.

Goldwater played a big role in this win—encouraging state lawmakers to expand the Empowerment Scholarship program so even more families can benefit.

Arizona’s expansive ESA program is now a model for other states

Arizona is now the leader when it comes to parental choice policies. Michael Chartier, State Policy Network’s Senior Director of Policy Initiatives, noted: “States that are considering policies that put the needs of students and parents first can now look to Arizona as an example. State policymakers should strive to adopt similar reforms that give all children—regardless of where they live or how much money their family makes—access to a quality education they deserve. SPN looks forward to working with Goldwater and other state think tanks to advance parental choice policies like these across the country.”

The Goldwater Institute added: “ESAs and other school choice programs can be a lifeline to ensure that children get the education they deserve. That’s why Goldwater will never stop until families in every state have the tools they need to help their children succeed.”

Related Reading

School Choice Blooms in the Desert
The Wall Street Journal

Everything You Need to Know About Education Savings Accounts
State Policy Network

Arizona Expands School Choice to All Students
American Federation for Children

Arizona Legislature Passes Goldwater’s ESA Expansion to Empower Families
Goldwater Institute

Arizona’s New Law Funds Students, Not Just Government-Run Schools

Categories: Policy Issues