NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Arizona Leads Nation in School Choice

March 19, 2013

State education departments around the country have been experimenting with school choice for decades and continue to expand the options available to students and parents. There is substantial evidence that choice raises the quality of education in public, charter and private schools and improves educational outcomes. Arizona is a national leader on school choice, says Jonathan Butcher, education director at the Goldwater Institute.

  • Nearly 90,000 Arizona students, almost 10 percent of the school population, attend a failing school.
  • For these families, options ranging from tax credits to charters schools to the education savings account program are available, but few understand them.
  • Arizona's open enrollment law allows any child to enroll in any public school in the state as long as a completed application is submitted to a school or district during an open enrollment period.

Arizona students can also apply for private scholarships that are awarded by scholarship organizations supported by the donations of individuals and businesses. The individual and businesses receive a dollar-for-dollar tax write off for their contribution.  More than $444 million has been awarded to Arizona students since 1998.

  • Another option available to parents is the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA), which is a special bank account that the state of Arizona deposits a portion of a child's share of education funding in for education related expenses.
  • The special accounts are available to children in poorly-rated schools, children with an active-duty military parent, children adopted out of the state's foster care system and children with special needs.
  • In the 2013-2014 school year, one out of every five Arizona public school students will be eligible for an ESA.

Parents can also choose to educate their children at home and join the 225,000 students in Arizona who are already homeschooled. Additionally, parents can also opt to enroll their child in a virtual or hybrid school that utilizes the power of technology to deliver innovative and customized curricula.

Charter schools, which are tuition-free schools administrated by parents, teachers and community leaders, are yet another option available to parents. For Arizona students and parents, school choice creates an education system that is more responsive to the needs of its children.

Source: Jonathan Butcher, "A Parent's Guide to School Choice," Goldwater Institute, March 11, 2013.


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