Legislators Pass Expansion for Arizona's Most Important School Choice Programs

Increased funding to create more opportunities for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts and the Corporate Tuition Tax Credit Program

PHOENIX, AZ (Jun 15, 2013) -The American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice, today praised the Arizona Legislature for passing two educational choice bills that will greatly improve educational options for thousands of Arizona families. Senate Bill 1363 expands the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program to include kindergartners who were previously excluded from the program and expands the scholarship amount for qualifying children. House Bill 2617 improves the Corporate Tax Credit, allowing qualifying small businesses to donate to the tuition tax credit program. Both laws now await Gov. Jan Brewer’s signature.

“The bold educational reforms underway in Arizona will provide thousands of children new opportunities to obtain the educational choices that best fit their needs,” said Betsy DeVos, chairman of the American Federation for Children. “The compassionate and commonsense ESA expansion will have a direct and immediate impact on children from low-income families and would not have been possible without education champions like Sen. Barbara McGuire.”

The Empowerment Scholarship Account program expansion allows kindergartners, previously excluded from the program, to become eligible to apply and increases ESA funding-equal to 90 percent of the amount the state would spend if the child attended a charter school. In some cases, that is double the amount the scholarships currently offer. Currently, the Empowerment Scholarship Account program funding is much lower, in some cases as low as $3,400, making it difficult or impossible for low-income families to allow their children to attend a school of their parents’ choice despite scholarship. Any leftover monies can be saved for college.

The ESA expansion also caps the number of new students each year to 5,000 so the program grows at a sustainable rate. This bill received bipartisan support.

“This ESA expansion bill is a valuable tool to help Arizona families,” added Democratic Sen. Barbara McGuire. “From the beginning, I recognized the importance of giving children options when it comes to learning. They all have different needs and learn differently. The options provided by SB 1363 will enable more Arizona children to succeed.”

House Bill 2617 allows Arizona’s School Tuition Organizations to receive donations from qualifying small businesses as part of the Corporate Tuition Tax Credit Program. Currently, only large corporations are eligible for the program. If Governor Brewer signs HB 2617 into law, small businesses could start donating in 90 days, potentially giving a big boost soon to Arizona’s School Tuition Organizations.

The American Federation for Children is the nation’s leading school choice advocacy organization and works in states across the country to help secure additional, high-quality educational options for families.