If you reside in Arizona, you’ve probably heard the huge–and exciting–news that Governor Doug Ducey recently signed legislation authorizing the largest school choice expansion in our country’s history–an expansion of the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program (also known as a school voucher). Arizona’s ESA is an account administered by the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) and funded by state tax dollars to provide options for the education of qualified students in Arizona, and it allows parents of qualified students to utilize public monies to purchase educational services from private schools, education providers, and/or vendors. An ESA account holder must use at least a portion of the funds to provide an education in at least the following subjects: reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies, and science.
As a homeschooler–or a potential homeschooler–this is big. Why? Because $7,000 of public funding will now be available to families who want to pursue options for customizing their child’s education. The ESA program was designed to expand education opportunities outside the public school system and is now incentivizing families to take advantage of alternative forms of education, such as homeschooling, online education, private school tuition, tutoring services, and more.
So, what does this mean for Arizonans? We’ll break down the ESA program so you know exactly what it’s all about and can take full advantage of this unprecedented opportunity.
Who Is Eligible for the ESA Program?
Before this expansion, approximately 12,000 students were enrolled in the ESA program, as its eligibility was limited to students with special needs, children with military parents, students attending low-performing schools, children who reside within a Native American Reservation, and kids in foster care, among others.
Now, however, with the ESA expansion, every Arizona student is eligible for an ESA account, including those who already attend non-public schools, to help pay for their education. Essentially, this $7,000 funding is available to every single Arizona student, without a funding cap or enrollment cap. This means that all lower- and middle-income families in the state will have the freedom they never had to choose their child’s education as well as the access to make that choice. And this can literally change the course of more than a million children’s lives.
You can learn more about eligibility by visiting the ESA program’s eligibility page here.
The Benefits of an ESA as a Homeschooler
There are many advantages and benefits of an ESA, perhaps the most important of which is the empowerment it affords all parents to customize their child’s education. Additionally, an ESA allows students with special needs to begin their education as early as pre-K. But for parents who homeschool their children or team with friends and/or neighbors to form homeschool pods or microschools, Arizona’s ESA expansion also provides them with the financial means to further build upon their groups and offer their students an even more robust educational experience that does not involve the public school system.
As a homeschooling parent (and with nearly 40,000 homeschooled students in Arizona, we know there are plenty of you!), $7,000 makes a world of difference–it can help pay for tuition, updated technology, better supplies, and other materials that would allow homeschoolers’ classrooms across the state rival any other schools’.
Education is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, and by expanding upon their ESA program, Arizona paved the way toward individualized learning and education choice for other states to follow.
Important ESA Information
Below are some links to get you started. For the time being, the Arizona Department of Education is not accepting applications related to the ESA expansion; they’re only processing applications from those who fit the previous eligibility criteria, as listed above. Be patient, however–the ADE will soon accept applications for the expansion. It’s a good idea to check the ADE’s ESA page periodically for updates.
Bridgeway Academy Offers Plenty of Options for Arizona Homeschoolers!
If you’re currently exploring homeschool options, look no further than Bridgeway Academy! Founded in 1989, Bridgeway has been the source of high-quality education for more than 30,000 students ranging from pre-K through 12th grade.
As part of our commitment to personalized homeschooling tailored to each child’s individual learning style, we are proud to offer both secular and Christian options for homeschool families and others who seek home education options for their families. Our unique approach to individualized education has helped thousands of students thrive and reach their goals. If you’d like to see a quick overview of Bridgeway Academy’s school statistics, download our School Profile.
To learn more about Arizona’s state homeschool laws, as well as other helpful homeschool resources and information in your state, check out our Arizona state homeschooling page.
For more information about our wide range of customizable homeschool programs that you can purchase with your ESA funds, browse our website or call a homeschool expert at (800) 863-1474 today!