The Leaflet: Arizona Leads the Way on Education Choice

Published April 13, 2017

On April 6, the Arizona State Legislature passed an expansion of its Empowerment Scholarship Program (ESA), allowing more students to have access to school choice. It is estimated 5,500 more students each year will be able to join the program and a maximum of 30,000 will be participating by 2022. Senate Bill 1431 provides an innovative way to bring school choice to parents and K–12 education.

ESAs give parents the ability to choose the best school, programs, and courses to fit their child’s needs. Lennie Jarratt, project manager for the Center for Transforming Education at The Heartland Institute, praises Arizona legislators for passing bill. “Education should be about stoking the passions of students to learn, not about what building students attend,” Jarratt said. “Arizona understands this and continues to lead the nation in education reform as a result. Every state should follow Arizona in allowing students to find the education they need to excel.”

Heartland Policy Analyst Tim Benson says the ESA program expansion will help kids across the state. “When parents are given the opportunity to choose, every school must compete and improve, so even the children who are not taking part in the program will reap its benefits,” Benson said. “I hope Arizona’s example will provide the necessary motivation for legislators in other states contemplating their own education choice bills to do what is right for their state’s children.” 

Legislators in New Hampshire also recently took another step toward providing greater education freedom. Currently, the state has one school choice program, a tax-credit scholarship program for low-income families to use for private and homeschooling expenses. A new bill would establish the Education Freedom Savings Accounts program in the state, allowing parents of public school and homeschool students to access their child’s state public education funding. 

Teresa Mull, managing editor of School Reform News and an education research fellow for The Heartland Institute, recently interviewed Jody Underwood, an education fellow at the New Hampshire-based Granite Institute, who says ESA programs will solve some of the educational challenges New Hampshire faces, especially those issues related to access in rural parts of the state. “ESAs would allow parents even in the grades we do have in our town—we only have K–4—to choose to send their kids to a private school using ESAs and get the state to pay some of it. It would help,” Underwood said.

States across the country should follow Arizona’s lead and work toward providing parents and students with greater educational freedom, a proven strategy for success.


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