ESA’s In Other States
Education Savings Accounts
Arizona lawmakers enacted the nation’s first education savings account law in 2011, and since that enactment, four more states have given parents the freedom to use accounts: Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Nevada. Families remove their child from an assigned district school to take advantage of the accounts’ flexibility.
Every child should have the opportunity to use an education savings account, in the same way that every child has access to district public schools. In Nevada, lawmakers enacted a law that allows all district or charter school students to apply for an education savings account (nearly a half-million students). Arizona officials enacted a savings account law for children with special needs in 2011, but since that time, lawmakers have expanded eligibility to include children from failing schools, adopted children, and children from active duty military families, to name a few. Approximately one in five students attending Arizona public schools are eligible for an account. Education savings accounts save taxpayer money compared to district public schools. In Arizona, for example, district school students are funded at approximately $9,000 per student. For a child that does not have special needs and uses an education savings account, that child’s account is worth approximately $5,000. For children with special needs, education savings accounts are worth 90 percent of what the state would spend on that child from state funds (not including district or federal sources).
In Arizona, parents and students can choose from:
- Private school tuition.
- Educational therapies.
- Personal tutors.
- Online classes.
- Standardized test fees.
- College savings plans.
- College tuition and textbooks.
- K-12 public school classes or extracurricular activities.
- Insurance or surety bond payments
Here’s How Education Savings Accounts Work in Arizona
Parents determine whether their child is eligible:
- Special needs;
- Adopted from the state foster care system;
- Active duty military family;
- Assigned to a failing public school;
- Sibling of an existing savings account student;
- Students living on a Native American reservation;
- Preschool student with special needs;
- Incoming kindergarten student that meets
- any of these criteria.
- Families complete an application available on the Arizona Department of Education’s website. As of 2016, parents can apply at any time during the year.
Once the department processes the application and parents sign a contract, families remove their child from a public school and receive a package in the mail that resembles the materials provided when you open a new bank account.
The Arizona Department of Education sends families a VISA card and an account number with which to make purchases.
- The department makes the initial deposit on the VISA card at the end of the summer. The department determines a child’s account award based on a percentage of the state funds used for district students according to grade level and whether a child has special needs.
Parents can swipe the card at approved educational vendors like Sylvan Tutoring or at a private school—or pay online for classes. Parents can also use the card to purchase textbooks or other learning materials to instruct a child at home.
- At the end of each fiscal quarter, parents complete an expense report for all of their purchases and return the report to the department of education. The department reviews the expense report before making the next quarter’s deposit.