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AZ Legislature Votes for More School Choice, Empowering Parents to Decide Child's Education Path

06-28-2022

Arizona lawmakers have voted to expand educational options for parents with school children.

Legislators approved House Bill 2853 on Friday which allows parents to receive scholarships for educational expenses, such as private school tuition, online education, education therapies, and tutoring.

The bill supports Arizona's Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program for students in grades K-12. Parents who choose an ESA for their child are accessing alternatives for their education, such as private school or homeschooling.

Students who qualify for an ESA include those with disabilities, students living within a Native American Reservation, children attending a lower-performing school, children of active-duty military personnel, and several other categories.

The Arizona Senate approved HB 2853 with a vote of 16 to 10 while the House of Representatives voted 31 to 26 on June 22.

"Arizona's families are the real winners today. Arizona has long been a national leader in school choice, yet thousands of children still lacked needed options," said Steve Smith, Arizona State Director for the American Federation for Children. 

"Today marks another milestone and puts children in Arizona at the forefront of educational opportunity," Smith added. "We are grateful to the bold lawmakers and Governor Ducey, who fought tirelessly to put families first. Without their leadership, this victory would not have been possible."

House Majority Leader Ben Toma (R) who sponsored the ESA expansion bill, reiterated that the responsibility rests on parents to decide what is best for their child's education," Daily Signal reports.

"Parents are the ultimate accountability, not government. They know what's best for their children, and we should trust them to do the right thing," said Toma.

Beth Lewis, executive director for Save Our Schools Arizona, opposes the measure and argues that it's a "grift" with no boundaries on how schools use the funds. "There's nothing in this bill that stops anyone from just opening a strip mall school, parking a kid in front of a computer for hours and making a profit off of it," she claimed.

Nonetheless, a large majority of Arizona parents support ESAs, according to a Morning Consult survey. The study found that 75 percent of Arizona parents of K-12 students are in favor of the ESA program.

The bill is headed to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey's desk who is expected to sign the expansion. 

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