Press Release, School Choice, General

A Note from our CEO – Expanded School Choice Creates Endless Opportunities

Last week, the Arizona legislature passed the largest school choice expansion in U.S. history.Once Governor Ducey signs the legislation, every single student in Arizona – even those currently in private schools or homeschool – will have access to $7,000 education savings accounts (ESA). These accounts can be used for private school tuition, online education, education therapies, or tutoring services in accordance with each student’s individual learning needs.  

This is available to every one of Arizona’s 1.1 million students, without a funding cap or enrollment cap. That means, for the first time in history, every lower and middle-income family in Arizona will have access to school choice and education freedom. For those families who are looking for something different in their education, that opportunity is life changing.

The American Federation for Children has anticipated this victory since we began working in the state more than a decade ago and has, to date, invested more than seven million dollars to advance school choice in Arizona. Ultimately, this expansion is a massive opportunity to build a flourishing education system based on freedom, choice, and the needs of individual students. AFC is excited to help foster these opportunities going forward. Here’s how that story could play out.

Upon passage of this legislation, every high-quality school operator, microschool, homeschool “pod” parent, enterprising educator, and scholarship organization should take advantage of the most entrepreneurial education marketplace in the country. Education savings accounts will allow providers to build specialized education offerings to fully meet the needs of kids in their communities.  

For instance, mission-oriented private schools serving lower-income or underserved communities can expand, rather than close. Historically, this has been a tremendously difficult model to implement, but school choice programs give them more than a fighting chance.

Charter school leaders should look to start private schools in Arizona with their existing school philosophy and esprit de corps. This is an opportunity to jettison the onerous state-by-state authorizer process, the politically targeted regulations, and the constant unionization threat. The innovative learning models currently used in charter schools should be able to progress unencumbered.

Additionally, ESA’s help incentivize great teachers to build micro-schools for 10-20 students in their neighborhood. Many teachers are searching for flexibly and freedom not often found inside the public school system, and they can untangle their careers and dreams from the bureaucratic red tape and union intimidation. Plus, many families are searching for smaller learning environments filled with one-on-one instruction.

Lastly, the approximately 38,000 homeschooled students in Arizona should make their education more robust across their networks or at the family level. With $7,000 dollars at their disposal, families will be able to access the resources necessary to ensure all the amenities that their students would get in a traditional education setting.

The key point is that this expansion makes it possible to build an education marketplace based not on an antiquated, one-size-fits-all, monopolistic system, but on the individual learning needs of students and the will of parents.  

A “student-focused” system is something every state should work towards. Arizona got the job done, but desire for school choice extends far beyond its borders. National polling shows that school choice enjoys overwhelming approval (72% vs. 18% opposed) among voters and across party lines, with 68% of Democrats, 82% of Republicans, and 67% of Independents in support. Additionally, recent primary elections in Iowa and Texas show that parents see education as a prime voting issue. The message is clear: Families want educational options.  

The Arizona legislature listened, and their constituents will enjoy a budding educational environment as a result. The same opportunity exists for other states, and they should follow Arizona’s example by funding students, not systems. 

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