Enacted 2011 • Launched 2011 • Education Savings Account
Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) program allows parents 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 expanded
beyond the original pool of students with special needs to students assigned to public schools or school
districts with a “D” or “F” letter grade, children of active-duty military members, and youth adopted
from the state’s foster care system.
Latest Stats (2013-14)
- Students participating: 731
- Schools participating: 75
- Average account value: $14,500 (projected)
ESAs are funded at 90 percent of the charter school per-student base funding. For the 2013-14 school
year, that amounts to about $5,300 for students who do not have special needs.
Students must have previously either (1) attended public school for at least 100 days of the prior fiscal
year, (2) received a special education tax-credit scholarship from a School Tuition Organization (STO),
(3) participated in the ESA program, or (4) received money from an STO under Lexie’s Law. However,
students eligible to attend kindergarten do not need to meet those requirements if they otherwise
qualify for the ESA program. 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.
September 26, 2011, the Arizona School Boards Association, Arizona Education Association, and Arizona
Association of School Business Officials sued in state court to block the Empowerment Scholarship
Accounts (ESA). In Niehaus v. Huppenthal (CV2011-017911), the Superior Court of Arizona, Maricopa
County, found this program to be constitutional; however, the plaintiffs appealed to Arizona’s intermediate
appellate court. On October 1, 2013, the Court of Appeals of Arizona affirmed a district court decision and
ruled the ESA program does not violate the state’s constitution. In its ruling, the Court emphasized that
ESA funds are directed “solely upon how parents choose to educate their children.” The challengers have
filed an appeal of the appellate court ruling with the Arizona Supreme Court. Niehaus v. Huppenthal, No.
1 CA-CV 12-0242.
Rules & Regulations
• Income Limit: None
• Prior Year Public School Requirement: Yes
• Geographic Limit: Statewide
• Enrollment Cap: 0.5 percent of total traditional public and public charter school students
• Account Cap: 90 percent of charter school per-student base funding amount
• Testing Mandates: None
Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 15-2401-04
Robbie Rhinesmith | email@example.com
How to apply: http://www.azed.gov/esa/