ALEXANDRA DESANCTIS, National Review
A bill that would expand state-funded education savings accounts could land on Governor Doug Ducey’s desk as early as this week.
Arizona could soon become the first state in the nation to institute a universal school-choice program. And because the state already has a successful, but more limited, program in place — a funding system that has been expanded several times over the last few years — there is a solid foundation on which to build the effort.
The bill to expand the program could land on Arizona governor Doug Ducey’s desk as early as this week. It has already passed the education committees in both chambers of the state legislature and, since there is just a month left in the session, a full vote on the bill is expected sometime in April. Because Ducey has approved developments to this school-choice program in past years, it is likely that he will support this latest expansion.
The Goldwater Institute, a Phoenix-based think tank, has been on the front lines of Arizona’s school-choice movement for the last decade. In 2006, the group introduced the concept of education savings accounts, and this idea was first enacted across the state in 2011 in a program for children with special needs. The Empowerment Scholarship Account program has used this savings-account model and expanded it every year since to include more students, including those in failing schools or adopted from foster care, as well as children of military members and children who live on Native American reservations.
The program now enrolls 3,300 students, and the new bill would expand access slowly over the course of the next four academic years by opening the program to students in a few grade levels each year. About half of the students currently enrolled are children with special needs.