By Johnathan Butcher
PHOENIX – The New Year is full of promise for over 200,000 Arizona children. Why? Because those children now have more options for schooling than ever before.
Between January 1 and May 1, approximately 1 out of every 5 Arizona public school students is eligible to apply for one of Arizona’s unique education savings accounts. For the 2013-14 school year, all children with special needs or attending failing schools can apply, along with children of active duty members of the military or adopted out of the state foster care system.
These education savings accounts are bank accounts parents use to make educational purchases for their child. Arizona deposits student funds from the state formula in the accounts, and parents can pay tuition, buy textbooks, and even save money for college. Over 300 children are using an account this school year to pay for the education that best meets their needs.
Parents are using the accounts for many different expenses. In early 2011, parents paid more than $182,000 in tuition; $2,500 on textbooks; $10,000 to educational therapists; $3,200 for tutoring services; and $600 was deposited in college savings plans.
In addition, the Arizona Department of Education’s first customer satisfaction survey of parents using the accounts found that parents gave the department an average score of 4.23 out of 5. For a new program that began enrolling children just weeks after the law passed in 2011 and is unlike any other in the U.S., it is remarkable that any office could successfully coordinate so many new rules and procedures with hundreds of families.
A lot will be happening with the accounts in 2013. The Goldwater Institute will continue to defend children from the teachers union, the Arizona Education Association, which is trying to take the accounts away from children with special needs. The Arizona Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on the law February 13. And during the upcoming legislative session, Arizona lawmakers will consider a bill to make sure rules are in place to prevent fraud in the accounts.
This will be a promising year for all the new children who have the opportunity to sign up for an education savings account and for the program itself.