Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has signed a bill that would open up education savings accounts to all of the state’s 1.1 million students.
Ducey, who signed the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts bill April 6, would improve academic outcomes for the students. Previously, access to the money had been restricted to students with disabilities and students in low-performing schools.
— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) April 7, 2017
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos soon tweeted her support.
A big win for students & parents in Arizona tonight with the passage of ed savings accts. I applaud Gov. @DougDucey for putting kids first.
— Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED) April 7, 2017
But the state’s Democrats, who are in the minority in the legislature, argue that wealthy and military parents that home school their students will swamp the state’s system with students who would otherwise have been home-schooled or have themselves paid for private school, ultimately costing the state millions more dollars.
The mostly rural state has struggled academically and financially in recent years and has one of the lowest school spending rates in the country.
Under the ESA’s expansion, the average student will receive $4,400 a year, the amount of money the state would typically send a district for enrolling a student. Students with disabilities and poor students would receive more money than other students.
On the heels of the election of President Donald Trump and the appointment of DeVos—both steadfast charter school and voucher proponents—Republicans who control the majority of state legislatures have been pushing to expand the charter sector and the use of vouchers and ESAs, as my colleagues Corey Mitchell and Arianna Prothero wrote earlier this year.
Nevada’s use of education savings accounts was rejected late last year by that state’s supreme court on the grounds that the spending of tax dollars was unconstitutional.
Check out my colleague Arianna Prothero’s explainer on the differences between vouchers and education savings accounts.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.