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Action Needed to Ensure Arizona Charter Schools Do Not Lost Critical Voice at State Level

Legislators are compromising future support of charter schools in Arizona by stalling the re-nomination of Greg Miller, the charter school representative on the State Board, who has been a tireless advocate and voice for charter schools at the state level.

Analysis of Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) Program

With the rollout of Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) program, the first of its kind in the nation, the ingenuity makes the state a frontrunner for innovation. The ESAs program allows parents to withdraw their children from their public or charter schools, and have 90 percent of the funds the state would have spent on them deposited into Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. When the program was first enacted in 2011, the option was only available to parents of children with special needs. Today, the program’s eligibility has expanded to active-duty military families, foster children, and parents with children in public schools graded D or F under the state’s accountability system. More recently among the qualified are incoming kindergarten students who meet eligibility requirements.

Parents have the ability to use ESA funds to pay for a variety of education-related expenses such as private school tuition and fees, tutoring, education therapy services and aides, along with a number of other school-affiliated areas. The program also gives parents the power to roll over unused funds from year to year, saving these funds for future educational needs, including college expenses, for their children.

According to a recent report published by The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, of the 316 families participating from 2011 onward, 34 percent chose to use their funds on a variety of education options. Among the findings:

• 66 percent used their funds in a manner similar to a traditional school voucher.
• Roughly 65 percent of families were able to finance private school tuition at 87 private schools in Arizona.
• 34 percent used their funds for multiple educational options.
• 2 percent used their funds to finance online learning options.
• Almost 15 percent used their funds for private tutoring.
• 12 percent of families chose to use a portion of their funds to finance curriculum.
• Almost 20 percent utilized education therapy and services with their funds.

Although research shows that approximately two-thirds of Empowerment Scholarship Account spending is dedicated to private school tuition, thousands of dollars are being allocated to other educational outlets often times combining services. Overall, Arizona’s initiative to completely empower parents on the education their child receives is truly a steppingstone towards a progressive student-based education system.