Last year, here in Washington state, parents pulled 41,000 students out of the public school
Washington Policy Center
Last month Arizona’s Governor Ducey gave parents another option to educate their children. He made every Arizona school child eligible to receive an Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA), starting this coming school year, 2022-23. The new law offers an ESA to any family who wants one.
Arizona parents can apply to get a ClassWallet debit card, the financial platform for ESAs. The process takes about three weeks. Parents can make tuition payments, purchase educational items, and pay for other education-related expenses directly through the ClassWallet Marketplace.
The ESAs are funded with $6,500, or ninety percent of the base amount Arizona provides to educate each student in grades 1 through 12. Kindergarten students get $4,000.
Parents must sign a contract to use these sums to “provide an education for the qualified student in at least the subjects of reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science.” Students with special needs are eligible to receive additional state funding in their ESA based on their category of eligibility.
Parents must use ESA funds on education expenses, including tuition or fees at a qualified private school, textbooks, tutoring, and other education expenses, as described by the law. Parents of special needs students can use ESA funds on educational therapies, aides, and other education expenses.
Parents must withdraw their children from their school district or charter school and release the district from all obligations to educate the student. While ESA funds can be used for home education, ESA students do not file homeschool affidavits and are not considered “homeschool” students by state law. The state treasurer will conduct annual audits of the ESAs to insure the sums are only used to pay for the education purposes described by the law.
For more information about this program, see the Arizona Department of Education website: https://www.azed.gov/esa Their tagline is: “Equity for all students to achieve their full potential.”
Equity has become a loaded term. Last year, here in Washington state, parents pulled 41,000 students out of the public schools. They are dissatisfied with many aspects of the schools, including the trend to lower academic learning expectations for all students in the name of “equity.” These families pay property and sales taxes, and now they have assumed the full burden of educating their children on their own.
This is unfair and unacceptable. The state constitution provides it is Washington state’s paramount duty to educate each child within its borders. When the public schools fail to fulfill their duty, the state should offer families direct public assistance to pay for a private school that will actually educate their children. Programs like these fulfill the public interest in having an educated populace.
A Washington state ESA would have $11,250, or 90 percent of state funding per child. Special needs students would receive an additional $10,000 per child in their ESA’s.
A Washington state ESA with these sums would be welcomed by families, help every child achieve his or her full potential, and prevent families from leaving the state for Arizona.
Liv Finne is the director of the Center for Education at the Washington Policy Center.
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