Empowerment Scholarship Accounts
- Education Savings Account (ESA)
- Enacted 2011
- Launched 2011
Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) program allows parents to opt their children out of public district or charter schools and receive a portion of their public funding deposited into an account for defined, but multiple, uses, including private school tuition, online education, education therapies, private tutoring or future educational expenses. This was the nation’s first ESA program. Learn more about how the program works on this page, including eligibility, funding, regulations and more.
As of September 24, 2022, student eligibility is expanded to universal. Arizona has set the standard nationally for student access to private choice
We do not administer this program.
Participating Students (Fall 2021–22)
of Students Eligible Statewide (as of September 24th, 2022)
Participating Schools (2021–22)
Maximum Account Value as a Percentage of State-Level Public School Per-Student Spending
Approximate Average Account Value (2022, excluding students with special needs)
Average Account Value (2021–22, including students with special needs)
Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Participation
ESAs are funded at 90 percent of the state’s per-student base funding. In 2020–21, ESAs were worth about $6,400 for students in grades 1–12 who do not have special needs. State estimates project this amount rising to $7,000 as of 2022-2023. Students with special needs receive additional funding, and those amounts vary depending on the services the student’s disability requires. Because a majority of ESA students have special needs, the average ESA in 2021–22 is more than $15,000.
Students must meet one of the following characteristics: Is eligible to enroll in a public school in Arizona in (1) a preschool program for children with disabilities, (2) a kindergarten program, or (3) any of grades one through twelve.
EdChoice Expert Feedback
Arizona’s ESA program is now the most expansive program in the nation. The bar for universal student access to educational opportunity has been set for other states to follow.
100% of K-12 students are eligible to receive an ESA, along with pre-K students with disabilities. 100 percent Arizona students are eligible to receive an ESA, though Arizona students may not concurrently receive ESA funding and financial assistance via the state’s tuition tax credit programs. Statewide, recipients participating in one of Arizona’s private educational choice options (including the universal-eligibility Original Individual-Donor Tax-Credit Scholarship Program, the Low-Income Corporate-Donor Tax-Credit Scholarship Program, “Switcher” Tax-Credit Scholarship Program and Lexie’s Law for Disabled and Displaced Students Tax-Credit Scholarship Program) represent about 7 percent of the state’s enrollment. This is the highest EdChoice share in the nation.
ESAs are funded at 90 percent of the state’s per-pupil base funding. State estimates project that typical ESA students will receive about $7,000 annually as of 2022-2023, but students with special needs get significantly more. Funding amounts vary based on the types of special needs.
Arizona’s ESA program generally avoids unnecessary and counterproductive regulations.
Rules and Regulations
- Income Limit: None
- Prior Year Public School Requirement: No
- Geographic Limit: Statewide
- Enrollment Cap: No
- Account Cap: 90 percent of base support level
- Testing Mandates: None
- Available to all K-12 students plus pre-K with disabilities.
- Special needs, students in low-performing schools, children of active military members stationed in Arizona or those killed in the line of duty, children of parents who are legally blind, deaf or hard of hearing, students in foster care, siblings of current or previous ESA recipients, students eligible to enroll in a program for preschool children with disabilities and children living on a Native American reservation
- No double dipping, e.g. may not accept an ESA at the same time as receiving scholarships from other state tuition tax credit programs.
- Parent must sign an agreement to:
- Provide an education in the subjects of reading and grammar, mathematics, social studies and science
- Not enroll the student in a school district or charter school
- Release the school district from all obligations to educate the student
- Not accept a scholarship under Arizona’s general tax-credit scholarship programs
- Use the money deposited in the ESA for purposes specified in the law and spend accumulated ESA dollars on basic education subject
On March 21, 2014, the Arizona Supreme Court in Niehaus v. Huppenthal declined to review a Court of Appeals’ ruling upholding the state’s education savings accounts (ESA). The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled ESAs are neutral toward religion. Although a prior 2009 decision by the Arizona Supreme Court in Cain v. Horne 202 P.3d 1178 (Ariz. 2009) (en banc) found vouchers to be unconstitutional in Arizona, the appellate court distinguished ESAs, said they did not violate the state constitution because funding can be used for a variety of educational resources in addition to private school tuition. Niehaus v. Huppenthal, 310 P.3d 983 (Ariz. App. 2013)
Empowerment Scholarship Accounts State Groups
That Support School Choice
Love Your School is a great resource for Arizona families looking for the best schooling options for their children. They also share the latest happenings in AZ education, families’ personal stories and more.
Empowered Arizona Families exists to give a public voice to families that utilize the Empowerment Scholarship Account program in Arizona. This organization is operated by ESA families, for ESA families.
Arizona’s Association of School Tuition Organizations (ASTOA) is the only membership organization that works solely on behalf of and provides a unified voice for Arizona’s school tuition organizations (STOs).
The Arizona Department of Revenue has approved this list of school tuition organizations to receive donations through the state’s tax-credit scholarship programs. These organizations provide private school scholarships to eligible students.