Opponents of educational freedom say that school choice benefits the wealthy and hurts the poor. But when it comes to one of the biggest school choice tools available to Arizona students, that argument is simply false.
A new report released this week by the Goldwater Institute and American Federation for Children captures the extraordinary impact of the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program among Arizona families most in need.
Pioneered by the Goldwater Institute and first enacted in Arizona in 2011, ESAs provide families with resources to pursue educational avenues that fit their children’s needs while helping to relieve spending by taxpayers. Specifically, Arizona’s program takes a portion of what the state would have spent covering the cost of a student’s education in a public school and instead deposits that money into a personalized account that allows the child’s family to use the funds for tutoring, educational therapies, private school tuition, curriculum materials, and other teaching tools.
The new report showsthat the typical non-special needs ESA award covers 100% of the median private elementary school tuition and fee rate in Arizona. In other words, ESAs put private education within financial reach of even the most economically disadvantaged.
The report likewise turns upside down prior claims that ESAs disproportionately benefit wealthy communities. As the data make clear, ESA participation among higher- and lower-income communities and higher- and lower-performing school districts mirrors that of the public school student population at large.
ESAs now offer such opportunities to families across the country, with North Carolina becoming the sixth state to enact an ESA program beginning in the 2018-2019 school year. Learn more about how ESAs are having an extraordinary impact on children’s lives here.