From Governor's Office <[email protected]>
Subject ICYMI Arizona Republic: Arizona Can Go Even Bolder On School Vouchers. Here's How
Date July 27, 2022 9:50 PM
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Opinion: Arizona's school voucher expansion makes it possible for every parent to invest in their child's education. 
Hello John,
Need a roadmap to accessible, quality education and more options for parents and their kids? Follow the “Ducey model,” says education opportunity advocate Janine Yass.

In an opinion piece published in the Arizona Republic today, Yass applauds Arizona’s new universal Empowerment Scholarship Accounts noting every parent will be able to invest in their child’s education.

Read it below.

** Arizona Can Go Even Bolder On School Vouchers. Here's How
Opinion: Arizona's school voucher expansion makes it possible for every parent to invest in their child's education. But the state can take it a step further.

Janine Yass
Arizona Republic Opinion ([link removed])
July 27, 2022

When Arizona leaders stepped up to invest in the development of future generations, it was a wake-up call for policymakers across the country to put education – and America’s students – back on the agenda.

For the citizens of Arizona, the educational futures of their students improved dramatically when Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law ([link removed]) the expansion of the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA), making it possible for every parent – not just the affluent – to invest in their child’s education.

This is exactly how it should be across the country, not just in progressive states like Arizona. Instead of the government starting and funding its own schools, it should create accounts for kids that parents can use to pay for the best educational fit for their child.

Parents should be able to access funds at birth
While Arizona’s annual per pupil expenditure is low compared to most other states, averaging at $8,770, the national average funding per pupil for K-12 education, according to the Education Data Initiative, is just over $15,000. Where educational outcomes are the worst – America’s urban core – the average per pupil expenditure often exceeds $20,000 per student!

Long before parents plan their children’s schooling, the education system is already planning how it will spend dollars when young students enter the classroom. Regardless of their background or circumstances, children are zoned into a particular public school.

A better option is to follow the Ducey model, while also allowing parents to have access to those funds when the child is born – in an interest-bearing account – so they can start planning for their future. That way parents in every community have the chance to invest the money to spend, directly.

Let’s take the $20,000 figure. If a parent spent just $10,000 annually on education, they could keep the other $10,000 in an interest-bearing account at a 5% yield, for a total of $183,000 by the time the student turned 19. That’s real money that could then be used to continue education, job training or even buy a car or house.

On top of that, they would have to graduate with a diploma to access the funds. Not only would the kids get a much better education, but they would be going to a school of their own choosing, and would graduate with some means they could put toward pursuing their dreams.

This innovative work began decades ago
Leaders like Doug Ducey should be commended for rallying the state to make wholesale changes in how the state invests in its future. But even the governor would readily admit that this bull market did not start with him.

It started when teachers, parents and some extraordinary education innovators took it upon themselves to reform educational systems as far back as 1994, after realizing students were not being well served by the traditional system. As Ducey noted in a recent interview ([link removed]) , “The country is now being awakened to innovations that were planted in places like Florida and Arizona a couple decades ago.”

Those pioneering efforts ensured Arizona had one of the earliest and best charter school laws, implemented rigorous state standards for schools across the state, gave newfound flexibility to schools and finally created scholarships for needy students to attend private schools ([link removed]) .

Even this foundational work was just a precursor to the massive market changes that occurred in just the last two years.

Micro schools, digital academies are 2 examples
Take the example of the Black Mothers Forum, through which founder Janelle Wood created new micro schools ([link removed]) for parents to help educate their students when the traditional system was closed down.

We offered support to help her grow her work, and her efforts were so extraordinarily successful in reaching and teaching children of color in particular, that the governor gave the Black Mothers Forum another $3.5 million to partner with the state to create 50 more micro schools.

Wood is now a prominent voice on the state board for charter schools, representing parents and children most in need of our support.

Innovative leaders like Phoenix Union High School District Superintendent Chad Gestson ([link removed]) , not wanting to leave student fates to the discretion of a school building, created mobile education centers to reach students in the community and created the PXU Digital Academy ([link removed]) , a fully online, self-paced high school for students throughout the state.

We're offering cash awards to more innovators
These are just a few of the incredible efforts by educators and parents to deliver the education that students deserve. In order to ensure there is a continued and expanded supply of such innovations, the Yass Prize, which I chair, recently announced new and additional STOP awards totaling $1 million for Arizona providers who want to transform education for students – on top of the existing $10.6 million available as part of this year’s competition.

We are on the hunt for groups whose work embodies the guiding principles of a Sustainable, Transformational, Outstanding and Permissionless education, or STOP education.

Establishing empowerment scholarships for every family not only incentivizes new providers to step to the plate, but ensures they will remain sustainable in the future. It’s a dream that most Americans want but many will never reach if we let the status quo continue.

Thanks to Arizona, we have a new model for more states that brings us one step closer to that dream for all families.
Read the full article here. ([link removed])


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