Tag Archive for: ArizonaESAProgram

Parents Quick to Seek Universal ESAs, But They May Need a Backup Plan

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Parents submitted more than 6,000 applications in the past two weeks for their newly eligible children to receive Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) according to the Arizona Department of Education (ADE).

Catch up fast: Gov. Doug Ducey signed a law in July that expanded the program to all students.

  • It has historically been open only to specific groups, such as students with disabilities, kids who attend failing schools, Native Americans who live on reservations, or children whose siblings participate in the program.

Why it matters: Under the ESA program, parents who pull their children from public schools receive money to spend on private school tuition, tutoring and educational materials.

  • The Joint Legislative Budget Committee estimated in June that there were at least 47,000 private school students and about 35,000 homeschooled students who would become eligible under the law for ESAs.

By the numbers: Since Aug. 16, when the ADE opened applications for universal ESAs, it has received 6,494 applications for students who wouldn’t have previously qualified for the program, the department announced on Twitter Tuesday.

  • About 75% of those students were not previously enrolled in a public school, which was a requirement for eligibility prior to the universal expansion law, the ADE tweeted.
  • The ADE also received 279 applications for students who met the preexisting criteria.
  • There are currently 12,127 students participating in the program, the department tells Axios.

Yes, but: ESA opponents are collecting signatures to refer the law to the ballot, which would put universal expansion on hold until voters approve it.

  • So parents who are counting on using the vouchers for their kids should probably have backup plans.

Of note: It’s too late to put the law on the ballot for this year’s general election, so if Save Our Schools Arizona succeeds in collecting enough signatures, voters won’t have a chance to weigh in until November 2024.

  • If enough signatures aren’t collected, the expansion law will go into effect on Sept. 24.

Save Our Schools spokesperson Beth Lewis wouldn’t say how many signatures the campaign has collected so far, but she tells Axios that it’s on pace to collect the nearly 119,000 they need.

  • “This obviously will light a fire for people who kind of maybe thought, ‘Oh, it’s not going to be that bad,'” Lewis said of the ADE’s announcement on ESA enrollment.

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This article was published by Chalkboard Review and is reproduced with permission.

Study: Arizona School-Choice Measures Saved Taxpayers $1.2B

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Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program has saved taxpayers more than $1 billion and as much as $3.2 billion, according to a national study on school-choice programs.

EdChoice, a nonprofit that advocates for parental choice in where they send their kids to be students, estimated in its new study that educational choice programs have generated between $12.4 billion and $27.7 billion in taxpayer savings from 2011 up to the fiscal year 2018. That averages to $7,500 for each student who participated in such a program.

Arizona is a pioneer of school-choice programs. It is home to the nation’s first educational savings account, a program allowing parents to redirect a portion of funding meant for a public school district and use it to send their child to a school of their preference. Originally passed in 2011, Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account initially was directed toward students with special needs but was expanded to make nearly a quarter of the state’s K-12 students eligible.

“Arizona’s school choice programs have provided taxpayers with at least $1.2 billion in cumulative net fiscal benefits, likely more. These fiscal benefits are bonus, however. Bottom line is that they have helped countless families and children make their lives better by enabling them to find and access the best educational setting that works for them.”

Critics of Arizona’s ESA program and others like it say they siphon taxpayer funds from public school systems by not only removing parental contributions to the districts but state and federal disbursements that are often calculated by total enrollment.

Nationally, EdChoice estimates similar programs have saved taxpayers up to $7,500 for each student that participated. The report estimates school choice programs enroll 2% of the nation’s K-12 students but receive only 1% of public K-12 funding.

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This article was published on November 17, 2021, and is reproduced with permission from The Center Square.