Arizona adopts massive school choice expansion

Arizona just passed sweeping legislation to empower parents and fund students. The new legislation is the most expansive school choice program in the country.

Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) programs date back a decade in Arizona. And under the new bill, the ESA program will now be available to more than one million students. The current program is serving about 10,000 students.

Under the new bill:

  • ESAs will be available for every family in the state of Arizona.
  • Each family will receive $6,500 every year for each child in the family to put towards private school, homeschooling, tutoring, or any type of education that the specific child needs.
  • ESA families can purchase electronic devices, learning tools, and transportation to school.

What is unique is that this expands the ESA to be possibly the broadest stretch of accessibility for families in the nation.

“Most other state programs cap the number of students, set income eligibility requirements, or require students to be enrolled in public schools to apply. Arizona’s program may be the nation’s broadest,” the Wall Street Journal noted in a recent op-ed.

That is certainly the case in Mississippi, where the state’s ESA program is limited to those with special needs and the funding has never kept up with the program, limiting the total seats available.

That was identical to how the program began in Arizona as well. Initially limited to students with special needs, it has been slightly expanded to include those in failing schools and those on Indian reservations. And soon it will be available to all students.

This bill does not harm any already eligible families for the ESA program. The eligibility also doesn’t come with any testing; which is good news for homeschool families when participating in the program. This form of funding doesn’t affect the public schools’ funding but rather ensures funding follows each individual child.

As we saw from the beginning of the pandemic, many parents became much more engaged in their child’s education, often by necessity. Many have found that their children have certain needs and have found temporary solutions to those needs. However, they should be able to be empowered to make those solutions permanent, and in Arizona, they will be through changes with the expanded program.

We know that empowering families to have the freedom and flexibility to choose their child’s education is important to the growth of rising generations and our state’s future. All families should enjoy that freedom.

Do you support education freedom for families in Mississippi?