Education Empowerment

Utah Should Adopt Arizona’s Education Savings Account

A few weeks ago, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed into law the most expansive education choice legislation in the country. 

The new Arizona law makes all students in kindergarten through twelfth grade eligible for a new education scholarship account, also known as an education savings account (ESA). This scholarship entitles families to the state portion of education spending (about $6,500 per child) to use on their child’s education.

Arizona was the first state to adopt an ESA over ten years ago. The first Arizona ESA was targeted towards students with special needs. A student had to have a diagnosed disability under Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act. These students and their families were able to take the state portion of their funding to find a more fitting education for their child. Utah has a similar scholarship to this.

You may be asking, “Is this a voucher?” Yes and no. An ESA includes all the aspects of a voucher, but it can do so much more. Yes, parents can use it to pay for tuition at their selected private school. 

But an ESA can also be used in many other ways.

Many families across the nation who use ESAs do use them to help pay for private school tuition. But many other families use them for microschools, homeschools, tutoring, or any other educational service they design for their children.

What do ESAs allow? They allow secular and religious curriculum, supplies, computers, community classes, specialized equipment, tutors, swimming lessons, music lessons, museum memberships, and so many other services and items.

These items are determined in the original bill language. Some states are more restrictive than others. Arizona’s is permissive. ESAs laws typically require a scholarship granting organization to manage the funds and help families navigate their state’s specific law. 

Looking back on Arizona’s first ESA, you see a trend that holds true throughout the country. These education choice laws have only become more permissive as they have aged. They have never become more restrictive.

The universal nature of Arizona’s new scholarship allows all families the opportunity to find the education that is right for their student. 

Many recipients use their scholarship to create a customized, unique schedule from various providers to match the uniqueness of each child.

Utah’s Hope Scholarship would have done the same thing for Utah families. Utah’s legislature would be wise to follow Arizona’s example this coming January.