A recent report about Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program (ESA) highlighted the various ways in which it benefits Arizona public schools. The ESA program began in Arizona in 2011 with around 100 students, and has grown to over 6400 students as of 2019. The scholarship allows families to take a percentage of what the state would have spent on their child’s education in a public school, and instead deposits those funds into an account managed by the child’s family to use on approved educational expenses like tutors, educational therapies, private school tuition, and curriculum. Love Your School summarizes the ESA program, including eligible categories of students, here.
According to the report, the majority of students who benefit from the ESA program qualify under the special needs category. In FY 2019, approximately 58 percent of recipients received the scholarship for this qualification. In FY 2019, the average ESA award amount for a non-special needs student was $6,148. This amount stands in contrast to the $10,120 average per pupil spending for this same year for students in public school.
In fact, the ESA program actually increases per-pupil public school spending. That’s because when a student accepts ESA, over $600 per participant is redirected back to the remaining public school students. Additionally, over 99% of ESA funds are spent appropriately, and this year the Arizona Department of Education will be moving to a new system that will increase accountability, and improve the use of funds for families.
At Love Your School, we have the privilege of sharing about all the wonderful school options across our state, and the families who choose them. This includes the Arizona ESA program – which has allowed eligible groups of students, such as those with special needs, with an active duty military parent, or who are in an F-rated school, to be in an educational environment that works best for them. We trust families when it comes to deciding what works best for their child’s education, and we will continue to highlight just how amazing Arizona school options really are.