What are Education Savings Accounts (ESA)?
Every parent should have the right to choose the best path for their child’s success. That means implementing an education policy that allows dollars to follow students, not systems, with parental choice. These policies range from tax credit scholarships, a robust charter school environment, vouchers programs, and many other creative liberty-minded ideas.
One of the most consequential programs that states can institute is Education Savings Accounts (ESA). ESAs are government-funded savings accounts that allow parents to utilize money dedicated to their child’s education for qualified expenses. Examples include tuition costs, private tutoring, and other learning materials.
ESA gives parents the opportunity to maximize their child’s education. Helping to ensure that every child, no matter what background, has the opportunity to succeed, ESAs level the playing field for families who otherwise wouldn’t have the resources to send their child to the school that best suits their unique needs.
Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship
Eight states have active ESA programs of varying sizes and scopes. While any expansion of choice is a positive development, all students should have access to quality education regardless of background. Programs are generally capped by income level or apply to only a fraction of students, such as programs specific to students with special needs. This makes the recent expansion of parental choice in Arizona so consequential.
All Arizona families now have the opportunity to provide their children with the education that best suits their unique needs. The Arizona Empowerment Scholarship is an ESA program implemented in 2012 as the first of its kind in the United States. Accounts have a 90 percent maximum value in relation to per-student state spending, approximately $7,000. For many families, this is a life-changing amount of flexibility to finance their child’s education and is a perfect example of money following the student.
Initially, the Empowerment scholarship was available only to a small percentage of Arizona families. However, earlier this year, lawmakers dramatically expanded the program to empower all Arizona families with the passage of H.B. 2853.
Unfortunately, there is a coordinated effort to strip educational choice and opportunity away from Arizona families. Petitioners are gathering signatures to refer Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship expansion to the ballot. Opponents of the reform need to gather enough signatures by the September 24th deadline to threaten Arizona’s historic expansion of the Empowerment Scholarship. This is the same tactic groups used to undo a more limited Arizona parental choice proposal in 2018.
Expanding Empowerment Scholarships is a historic win for Arizona students. Arizonans should decline to sign this petition and protect Arizona students.