• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Arizona Gov. Brewer Expands USA's Most Innovative School Choice Model

    Imagine being a child trapped in a failing school in Arizona. Prior to 2011, being trapped in a failing school in Arizona meant being trapped in a failing school in a state that ranks among the worst performing in the country.

    But during 2011—the “Year of School Choice”Arizona led the way in expanding educational options for children outside of the public system. And the Grand Canyon State did so in a major way: by enacting groundbreaking, first-in-the-nation education savings accounts.

    Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) enable parents of special needs children to leave their assigned public schools, taking with them 90 percent of the state dollars that the schools would have received for their children. That money, deposited into ESAs, can then be used to access a multitude of education options that better met their children’s needs. Funds can be used to pay for private school tuition, online learning, special education services, transportation, and a variety of other education-related expenditures.

    Notably, unused ESA funds can be “rolled over” from year to year and can even be invested into 529 college savings accounts. The introduction of ESAs in Arizona has been a tremendous step toward educational customization.

    Earlier this week, thanks to the leadership of Governor Jan Brewer (R), the pioneering ESAs were expanded to thousands of additional children throughout the state. Children trapped in schools rated “D” or “F,” children of active-duty military parents, and foster children now have access to ESAs. Thanks to this week’s expansion, 11,500 children of active-duty military families and more than 94,000 students in failing public schools will be eligible for ESAs.

    Education researcher Matthew Ladner notes:

    The law also moves to a system of formula funding, making it one of the largest private choice laws in the nation with funded eligibility, behind only the new Indiana and Louisiana voucher laws on a percentage basis. The Arizona program now resembles an expanded combination of the Florida McKay and Opportunity Scholarship programs with the 21st Century twist of broadening the options of parents and requiring the consideration of opportunity costs (what you spend now cannot be saved for later).

    In the not so distant future, we will be able to…identify Governor Brewer’s term and a half as a turning point for the better.

    Brewer’s ESA expansion is another milestone in the ongoing effort among states to provide children educational options outside of their assigned public schools. Years from now, Arizona will be heralded as the state that led the way on truly customizable education that is structured in a way that empowers parents and designed to meet the unique learning needs of individual students.

    Posted in Education, Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to Arizona Gov. Brewer Expands USA's Most Innovative School Choice Model

    1. MarkV says:

      It is VERY important that your article does not create a blanket statement about Charter/Choice schools. This article does not seem to present the whole picture (just a quick ‘hooray’), so I will give it the benefit of the doubt. However, I live in CA. In reading the ballot information to move our schools to Charter, I was SHOCKED to read that our elected school board would be replaced by an appointed, unelected board! If you think you don’t have options now, think of a future of unelected overseers for our children’s education. If Conservatives think this is a magic pill to solve the problems of public education, we may get a massively rude awakening when we realize that we participated in voting away our democratic rights!

      I am not saying this is happening everywhere. HOWEVER…Please, please, please read the ballot measures before you agree to them. In some states (like mine), the liberals may already be in control of your preferred outcome! They are just waiting for you to put them in power… without the ability later to remove them.

      • Carol, AZ says:

        Charter schools in AZ have been mandated for decades and must comply to all AZ State education standards. The system spoken about here is the availability of educational opportunities inside the assigned school as "one option." The reason the charter school system was enforced in AZ in the first place and also throughout many other Western States, is the rural outlining areas where ranchers may own thousands of acres and the child population too small to build a traditional school. In the East it was called the "one room school-house". Charter schools here in AZ are traditionally smaller and attended by the choice of the student and parent decision, also often, confused with private school. They aren't .

    2. zigzaghag says:

      Step in the right direction. Now they need to expand it to ALL children from ANY school and truly give the parents a choice.

    3. DAVID HOOD says:


      • Carol, AZ says:

        Thank You Dave; Improving education is Gov. Brewers primary agenda for AZ. She's not afraid of the hard work needed to get the job done. AZ is ranked very low compared to other States for comparison, for education.
        Along with that agenda AZ continues to fight a full NARCO War on our border. The press has shut down all news about it. Our Sheriff's Dept have busted over 900 stash houses for people,drugs,money and weapons,and our jails and prisons over-flowing.
        Few people also realize that when we passed SN_1070, the full force of the Federal Govt came after Governor Brewer and our entire State's Legislature. Death threats, bomb threats, and chaos leveled against our Gov. and all of us, supported by ATT: General Eric Holder and Barry O.
        People here have bumper stickers that read: "Obama Sucks."
        "I know your struggling in N.C.
        Hold the line, Put out the trash and lock the barn door. It's always about leadership and voting-in the right people to get the job done. But you, and others like you, must get involved and support them. You live in a very beautiful State.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.