In 2011, Arizona established the nation’s first education savings accounts (ESAs) for children with special needs. Arizona's ESAs were expanded the following years to include children of active duty military families, children in Arizona's foster care system, and children from low-income families in schools rated "D" and "F". While traditional voucher or tax credit scholarship programs offer parents and their children the option to choose a private school, ESAs give families the flexibility to choose from a variety of educational products and services.
Parents can use ESA funds, which are deposited into their accounts quarterly, to pay for a variety of education services and providers including private-school tuition, private tutoring, special education services, homeschooling expenses, textbooks, and virtual education, enabling them to customize an education plan for their child’s unique needs. Parents may also roll over funds from year to year, and can use the money to invest in a college savings plan to pay for college tuition in the future.
Approximately 34 percent of families in the ESA program use their funds to finance multiple education services and providers at once, demonstrating that ESAs move beyond the worthwhile goal of school choice to choice among education service providers, courses, teachers, and methods.
The level of customization that ESAs afford brings American K-12 education into the 21st century and ensures no child is relegated to the limited effectiveness of the existing monopolistic system that is all too prevalent in states across the country.
More About the Speakers
Senior Advisor of Policy and Research, Foundation for Excellence in Education
Executive Director of The Institute for Justice, Arizona Chapter
Education Policy Analyst, The Cato Institute
Will Skillman Fellow in Education