A new report released recently by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice highlights the successes and popularity of Arizona’s Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs). ESAs represent an innovative and forward thinking approach to expanding parental choice in education. The program, which was first enacted in 2011 for parents of special needs children and recently expanded to children in failing schools, adopted foster children, and military families; awards parents with scholarship deposited into an ESA to pay private school tuition, buy textbooks, hire a tutor, and other educational products and services. Unused funds can be placed into federally approved college savings plans.  

The Friedman report includes a survey recently conducted by the Goldwater Institute, which found that 65% of those surveyed indicated they mainly used the funds that they received to pay for private school tuition, with 33% being used for either tutoring or homeschooling, 17% used for textbooks, and 14% used for online classes (respondents could select more than one category).  

Goldwater also found that there is a high rate of parental satisfaction with the ESA program. 89% of those surveyed found that it was easy to enroll in the program and 71% of respondents indicated that they were ‘very satisfied’ with the program.  A vast majority of those surveyed were more satisfied with the school that their child was able to attend under the ESA program, compared to the public school they were recently forced to attend.

Each ESA account comes in as a net saving to taxpayers, and there is room to further these savings through additional legislation. Given parental satisfaction, the aforementioned savings and the empowerment of choice the program gives parents in determining their children’s educational needs, Arizona’s ESAs are an excellent model for other states to look to as they consider expanding school choice and innovation in approaching education.