NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Expansion of Arizona's School Voucher System Takes Effect

January 11, 2013

One out of every five Arizona students in public schools became eligible January 1 to apply for public money to attend private schools this fall under an expansion of a controversial voucher-type program, says the Arizona Republic.

The program is called the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts and gives parents a debit card with preloaded money to pay for educational expenses. The purpose is to allow students that go to sub-par public institutions the option to attend a private school.

  • Previously, only disabled children were eligible to apply for the Empowerment Scholarship Account.
  • The law has been expanded to include children that go to schools receiving a D or F letter grade.
  • Also eligible are children of active-duty military and children in foster care who have been or are going to be adopted.
  • Altogether, about 200,000 more students are eligible.
  • The scholarship is worth an average of $3,000 to $3,500 for the 2013-2014 school year.

Parents are allowed to spend the scholarship money on other educational expenses that don't include private school such as tutoring, online colleges or tuition at state public colleges.

In most cases, the scholarship doesn't cover the entire cost of switching to private school. However, it gives parents more options and aids families if they do want to provide their students with education outside of a public school setting.

Eleven other states have some sort of voucher program. It represents a broader school choice movement that is underway across the country. In all these states with voucher programs, the underlying theme is that students and parents should have the option to go to school where they want and have some financial help in making that possible.

The program is not without its critics. Various public education groups are suing the state, claiming that the scholarship takes money from public schools to give to private schools that don't have the same state-mandated requirements.

They also argue that private schools have special admission requirements, which allow them to choose the students they want and leave the rest to have to go to public school. School districts are also worried that their budget will be slashed if more money is given to families to subsidize a private education.

Source: "Expansion of State's School Voucher System Takes Effect Today," Arizona Republic, December 31, 2012.


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