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  • Ben Cooper

School Voucher Expansion Stays, Deadline Extended: 10/15

Teachers unions fail in their attempt to stop the ESA, expansion. ESA is now available to every K-12 student in Arizona. It's worth ~$7,000 per year. The application deadline is now Oct 15.

Public school teachers unions usually get their way by pressing on tear glands and saying "it's for the kids", and by leveraging their massive influence over the Democrat Party. Not this time though. Falsely claiming that they had collected ~141,000 signatures, they actually collected less than 90,000 signatures. In doing so they fell well short of the ~120,000 needed to stall the ESA expansion and put it on the ballot as a veto referendum. In large part this is due to heroic and persistent efforts of a group of parents who educated voters on what signing the teachers union petition really means.

The Empowerment Scholarship Account Program accepts applications for the first quarter of the school year until October 15. With the help of Christine Accurso, who led the efforts of parents to preserve the ESA expansion as described above, we compiled some of the key features of the program:

  • Provides up to around $7,000 per year per K-12 student not enrolled in a public or charter school.

  • Funds are awarded and disbursed quarterly (school year). If $7,000 are awarded, then up to $1,750 would be disbursed per quarter, not more.

  • ESA funds and STO funds cannot be used at the same time. However since the ESA operates on a quarterly basis, it is possible to e.g. use STO funds for say the first two quarters, and then use ESA funds for the last two quarters of a school year.

  • The ESA Handbook describes in more detail for what the funds can be used starting at page 6. Most parents will use the funds to help pay for private schooling. However, the ESA can also be used for tutoring, some educational materials and even field trips.

  • Importantly, and in our opinion something that should be changed, funds cannot be disbursed to parents and close relatives who fulfill the role of a teacher/tutor at home. Home schooling per se is NOT supported by ESA. Lawmakers should fix this.

  • ESA funds go into a Classwallet account - Classwallet is a third party company the state of Arizona chose to administer the funds - and they sit there until the parents want to draw them down. A tutor (or any vendor) can register as a vendor in Classwallet (they have to get approved with credentials) and then the parents uploads the invoice and electronically ask for CW to pay the vendor. If for some reason the vendor doesn't want to register with Classwallet, a parent can pay the vendor and immediately get reimbursed. Or, there is an option for the parent to get a MasterCard debit card, but it can only be used with an education MCC code.

Teachers unions will likely continue their assault against school choice. They may bide their time and strike when their atrocities against kids during the Covid lockdowns - mask mandates, vax mandates, quarantine, silent outside lunches, school closures, calling police on unmasked kids and parents - are less fresh in memory. Parents and other school choice supporters should remain vigilant and work on further expanding school choice.

This should include much more support for parents who choose to do the work of educating their kids themselves, meaning homeschooling. Yes, there may be some fraud, but let not the perfect be the enemy of the good. And let's not forget that Arizona schools get around $15,000 per year per child, and often completely fail, leaving kids with almost no reading, writing and math skills. Overall it would be a huge benefit for our society if more parents homeschooled their children. If we tax everyone to pay for education, then parents who educate their kids at home deserve the same support that we give to schools, publishers and tuition organizations.

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