A Win for School Choice in Arizona Even as Prop 305 Loses

The American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice, released the following statement on Proposition 305:

Statement from John Schilling, President of the American Federation for Children: 

“As strong supporters of the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program as well as having every school choice option available for all Arizona families, the defeat of Proposition 305 will still result in more Arizona families having the opportunity to access an ESA. In addition, had Prop 305 passed, Arizona’s Voter Protection Act would have made it nearly impossible to improve and expand the program legislatively in the future. While passage of 305 would have made all K-12 students eligible, we can now look forward to removal of the current growth cap of 5,000 new students a year and funding for every ESA will remain significantly higher. That’s great news for more than 250,000 Arizona students who are eligible for an ESA.”

Important ESA Facts 

Contrary to recent misinformation, ESAs are not private school vouchers per a ruling by the Arizona Supreme Court. ESAs are an education savings account that parents control to pay for various education-related expenses including tuition, tutors, home school and online curriculum, therapies and more. ESAs are much more comprehensive than vouchers and allow full customization of education services for ESA children.

Many Arizonans may have been confused by misleading information stating most ESAs are used by children leaving A and B rated public schools. The only children accessing ESAs today are those who face one of the following challenges:

ESA Eligibility Categories

  • Children with special needs (I.E.P or MET)
  • Children stuck in a D or F rated public school
  • Children with active-duty military parent(s)
  • Children living on Ariz. tribal lands
  • Children in foster or adoptive care
  • Siblings of an ESA child

If a child opts out of an A or B rated public school to enter the ESA program they most likely have severe special needs (cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, etc.) that weren’t being met by their public school. There is no way to leave an A, B or even C rated public school through the ESA program without meeting one of the above ESA eligibility criteria.

The Auditor General has pointed out the need for greater financial oversight by the Department. AFC urges the Arizona Department of Education to implement systems which catch misspending of ESA funds immediately. However, it is important to note that the Auditor General’s report also shows that the vast majority of ESA parents are using the money properly and their children are benefiting greatly from the ESA program.

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.