AZ FREE NEWS: ESA Program Saw Significant Growth In 2023

by | Jan 3, 2024 | In The News

In an article published on AZ Free News, Daniel Stefanski writes that Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program, led by John Ward, has seen remarkable growth in its first year, with enrollment increasing from 13,400 to 72,500 students in 15 months. This expansion, initiated by the Arizona Legislature and then-Governor Doug Ducey, marks a significant shift in Arizona towards educational freedom for families. Stefanski writes:

Director Ward also highlighted the economic efficiency of ESA, stating that “ESA parents educate their students for 27 percent less funding than students in traditional public schools.” According to the email from Ward, “State taxpayers currently spend approximately $9,800 per ESA student on average” compared to $13,400 from “federal, state, and local taxpayers to educate students attending traditional public schools on average.” Ward also pushed back on one of the main attacks against the program, sharing a projection from the Department of Education that the “State will end fiscal year with a $57M education budget surplus,” adding that “a surplus is not an indication of bankruptcy.”

The estimates made by Director Ward seem conservative, as assessments by the Goldwater Institute show that both the federal costs and the savings are even higher. Looking ahead, enhancements to the ClassWallet platform are planned to improve user experience and expedite purchase approvals. According to Stefanski:

The focus for the ESA program in 2024 would be further enhancements to the ClassWallet platform to improve user experience and to reduce times of approval for purchases and reimbursements. Fixes to the ClassWallet Marketplace are expected to occur first, followed by tweaks to DirectPay, reimbursements, and debit cards.

As the Arizona Legislature reconvenes, the ESA program will be under the microscope, specifically from Governor Katie Hobbs, who, this week has already proposed radical changes, and others who are opposed to the extremely popular program. The article goes on to say:

As the Arizona Legislature returns to session in a matter of weeks, the ESA program will be under even more scrutiny as Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs and her legislative allies may attempt to gut or trim school choice in the state. Horne, though, has proven to be a relentless defender of the program, as have Republicans in the Legislature.

Read the full story HERE.


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