Last Thursday, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation to significantly expand the state’s popular Empowerment Scholarship Account program. The program allows students to use tax dollars to pay for private school tuition or other educational expenses.
Under the terms of the legislation, an additional 5,500 students would be allowed to sign up for the program each year until 2022. The program however would be capped at 30,000. Accounts would average about $5,600, which is enough to cover private school tuition in about half the private schools in the state.
The legislation is a significant victory for school choice advocates. The bill expands access to the program to all public-school children. Previously eligibility had been limited to special needs students, students attending failing schools, children in foster care, children who live on Native American reservations and children of active duty military personnel.
The new legislation also came with other changes. For example, the new program prohibits parents from using funds for college savings accounts. In addition, the legislation also requires schools with 50 or more ESA students to make available aggregate test scores of their students. Currently private schools are not required to make test scores public.
An editorial in this morning’s Wall Street Journal (subscription may be required), said the Arizona program serves more than 3,300 students and estimates it saves Arizona taxpayers about $1,400 per special needs student.
A number of legislators are hoping to bring ESAs to North Carolina. Last week Sen. Mike Lee (R-New Hanover) and others introduced SB 603, a bill to create ESAs for special needs students in North Carolina. Find out more about the benefits of special needs ESAs, here.