The Education Debit Card II
By Jonathan Butcher, Lindsey Burke
In this follow-up study, authors examine more data from Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program, an education savings account (ESA) program. The program allows families to spend their education dollars on a variety of options, including private tutoring, learning therapies, and more. The Education Debit Card II: What Arizona Parents Purchase with Education Savings Accounts reveals ESA families’ expenditures now and how spending trends have changed since our last report.
In this report, you will learn:
Parents are using funds for multiple educational purposes.While many ESA families used their funds to pay for private school tuition, 28 percent spent the money on multiple learning services. In fact, 7 percent of the total funds were spent on private tutoring, compared with 4 percent in the previous study. Parents also spent on online programs, curricula, educational therapy, and more.
Families are accumulating savings for future educational expenses.As in the previous study, many families are saving unused ESA dollars for future expenses. Families saved 31 percent of total ESA funds and accumulated more than $67,000 in college savings plans. During this report period, 31 percent of total funds went unspent, compared with 43 percent during the previous report period.
Families are choosing a wide variety of private schools.Families who used ESA funds to pay for private school tuition were able to choose from 149 different schools, up from 87 in 2013. Those schools included parochial schools, Waldorf academies, college prep schools, Montessori schools, international schools, and schools for students with autism or hearing impairment, among others.
ESA participant demographics are becoming more diverse.During the previous study period, only students with special needs were eligible to participate. Expansions have opened the ESA program to many more students, including children of active duty military members, siblings, students assigned to “failing” schools, and students living on tribal lands. And those students are signing up for ESAs. Data show only 58 percent of ESA participants were students with special needs in the 2015–16 school year.