AZ Legislature Passes Universal School Choice Legislation, Expanding Empowerment Scholarship Account Eligibility to EVERY Family No Matter What School They Attend


The Arizona Legislature passed a new law expanding the Empowerment Scholarship Account program, giving every family in the state the freedom to choose their child’s school.

State Rep. Ben Toma introduced this bill, which will provide eligibility for an Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account to every student in the state, no matter which school they attend. Families paying for private schools or homeschooling will receive a break from financing other students’ public education.

According to,

The Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program from the Arizona Department of Education gives eligible parents public funding to pursue flexible options for customizing their children’s education.

Intended to expand educational opportunity outside of the public school system, it provides public funding for a wide range of personalized education expenses, including private school tuition, tutoring services, textbooks and more.

From Goldwater Institute:

The Arizona legislature has unveiled an ambitious plan to put K-12 students and parents first. Sponsored by House Majority Leader Ben Toma, and co-sponsored by over two dozen of his peers, HB 2853 would open the doors to educational opportunity for kids throughout the Grand Canyon State. While the bill has already cleared its first hurdle—passing the House Ways and Means Committee this week—it’s worth digging into what exactly the legislation does, and doesn’t do, for Arizona families.

  What is the purpose of the legislation?

  • HB 2853 expands eligibility for the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program to every family in the state.
  • Families who participate would receive over $6,500 per year per child for private school, homeschooling, “learning pods,” tutoring, or any other kinds of educational service that would best fit their students’ needs outside the traditional public school system.
  • Any child who wishes to opt out of their local public school (or who already has) would be allowed to join the ESA program under the bill.

Does this harm existing ESA families or will it crowd out families who are already eligible for the program?

  • No, this bill places zero new restrictions on any family who is already eligible for the ESA program, including special needs students.

What about the bill’s testing requirements?

  • Homeschool families are NOT forced to do any testing of their students in order to participate in the ESA program under the bill.
  • Only students who are enrolled full-time at a private school in grades 3-12 are required to take an exam each year, and they (or their school) can choose ANY national norm-referenced test or a college level admissions exam or the state exam. (Students already eligible for an ESA are also exempt.)
  • Under the bill, schools are required to report their test scores only to the parents. For schools that enroll more than 50 ESA students, they will make the aggregate test scores available to current/prospective parents, but never report an individual student’s test scores.
  • The state cannot dictate which test a school or parent must select, meaning that private schools cannot be pressured to teach to a state-based curriculum.

Don’t ESAs drain our public schools of funding?

  • No, the ESA program simply ensures that each student’s funding follows the student, just like it already does each time a student leaves a public school for a different public school using the state’s open enrollment option. Unless you believe that a student should be required to attend a particular school district—no matter how poorly it would serve that child–simply because of the zip code the child’s family lives in, then you already support the idea that funds should follow a student.

How else does this legislation strengthen the ESA program?

  • The bill would also allow ESA families to purchase electronic devices like computers, calculators and microscopes and to utilize their ESA funds for student ride share services designed for students to help get them to school.
  • The bill would also ensure that families of students with special needs can get an examination to determine whether they qualify for special education therapies under the ESA program.

Christopher Rufo called this bill “the first universal school choice legislation in the nation.”

Gov. @DougDucey is poised to sign the first universal school choice legislation in the nation, which will give every family in Arizona $7,000 per child to attend any school of their choice.

Every red state in the country should follow his lead.

— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔ (@realchrisrufo) June 25, 2022

The legislation gives every family a right to exit any public school that fails to educate their children or reflect their values. Parents can apply the $7,000 “empowerment scholarships” to any private, religious, or homeschool program of their choice. We need this everywhere.

— Christopher F. Rufo ⚔ (@realchrisrufo) June 25, 2022

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey must sign this historic bill to provide school choice to all Arizonans.

Contact Doug Ducey here.

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