Enacted 2011 • Launched 2011 • Education Savings Account
Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) program allows parents of children with disabilities to withdraw their children from public district or charter schools and receive a portion of their public funding deposited into an account with defined, but multiple, uses, including private school tuition, online education, private tutoring, or future educational expenses. In the 2013-14 school year, eligibility expands to students in a public school or school district with a "D" or "F" letter grade, children of active military members, and foster care youth.
Latest Stats (2012-13)
- Students participating: 362
- Schools participating: 25
- Average account value: $13,500
Average scholarship value as a percentage of
Arizona’s total per-student spending ($7,968)
Student funding equals 90 percent of state per-pupil spending.
Students must have been previously either 1) attending public school for at least 100 days of the prior fiscal year, 2) receiving a special education tax-credit scholarship from a School Tuition Organization (STO), 3) participating in the ESA program, or 4) receiving money from an STO under Lexie’s Law. However, students eligible to attend kindergarten do not need to meet these requirements. New accounts are capped at 0.5 percent of the previous year’s total number of public and charter school students; that cap is removed in 2019.
On September 26, 2011, the Arizona School Boards Association, Arizona Education Association, and Arizona Association of School Business Officials sued in state court to block this new law. There have been no rulings in this case as of the date of this printing. The case name is Niehaus v. Huppenthal, Superior Court of Arizona, Maricopa County, CV2011-017911.
Rules & Regulations
Schools are qualified to participate if they are nongovernmental K-12 schools or a preschool for handicapped students, and if they do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin.
For families to participate in the program, a parent must sign an agreement stating that their child’s scholarship account will be used to provide an education in at least the subjects of reading and grammar, math, social studies, and science. The parent must also agree not to enroll the student in a public school of any kind (including charter schools), or to accept a scholarship from a school tuition organization, or to use the scholarship account money for anything outside of the accepted purposes.
Accepted purposes for the scholarship account include: tuition and fees for qualified schools, textbooks, educational therapies or services from a licensed provider, tutoring from an accredited tutor, curriculum, tuition and fees for an online learning program, fees to take an achievement test, contributions to a qualified tuition program under federal law, tuition/fees/textbooks for an eligible postsecondary institution, fees for management of the scholarship account, and services provided by a public school (including extracurricular activities). House Bill 2622 in 2012 added the following list of impermissible expenses: computers or other technology, transportation for the student, or “consumable educational supplies” such as paper or pens.
After the child graduates from college or four years have passed since high school graduation, all money remaining in a scholarship account returns to the state.
The Arizona Treasurer is empowered to conduct periodic random audits of scholarship accounts to ensure that money is being spent for the proper purposes. If misuse of funds is found, the Department of Education can remove the child’s eligibility and refer the case to the Attorney General for prosecution.
The law includes assurances that no government agency is empowered to “exercise control or supervision over any nonpublic school or home school,” and that a qualified school is not required to “alter its creed, practices, admissions policy or curriculum.”
The bill amended Arizona Code § 15-1182, and created a new Chapter 19 of Title 15. The 2012 legislation further amended that statute.
Robbie Rhinesmith | firstname.lastname@example.org
How to apply: http://www.azed.gov/esa/