Editor’s note: The following is a news release from the Arizona Governor’s Office
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday joined families, educators and community leaders to celebrate Arizona’s successful effort to ensure every Arizona student can attend any school of their choosing.
“Arizona is now the gold standard for educational freedom in America,” Ducey said in a news release. “Our kids will no longer be stuck in under-performing schools. We’re unlocking their educational potential and advancing a bold new era of learning opportunities. Parents and teachers know there is no one-size-fits-all model to education. Kids and families should be able to access the school or learning program that best fits their unique needs — regardless of income or where they live. In Arizona, we’re making sure they have that choice.”
The governor spoke today at Phoenix Christian Preparatory School alongside parents and their kids who have benefitted from Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA), as he signed a bill that opens the scholarship program to every K-12 student in Arizona.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Ben Toma, has been lauded as the most expansive school choice initiative in the nation.
“I was proud to continue the Arizona tradition of leading on school choice and bring educational freedom to more than 1.1 million students,” said Toma, the House majority leader. “By opening Empowerment Scholarship Accounts to every K-12 student, we will improve outcomes and make choice a reality for all students. This session, we stood together to get this done for Arizona students and parents. Governor Ducey has been an invaluable partner in transforming school choice in our state, leading the way in unlocking the schoolhouse door.”
With ESAs open to all students, Arizona solidified its position as the gold standard for educational freedom. In a story published today, Chris Rufo, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said “universal school choice has long been the Holy Grail for conservative education reformers. Governor Ducey has achieved it.”
The ceremony at Phoenix Christian was highlighted by elementary schoolers singing a welcome song and stories from Arizona families of how school choice has unlocked their children’s full potential.
One of those parents is Jenny Clark, who, after her own children’s positive experience with ESAs, has helped other parents take the opportunity the program presents.
“Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program is truly life-changing for so many of our state’s children,” Clark said. “My five children have benefitted from ESAs and I can’t help but think how many kids don’t get the help they need. Now, they will. Every child in Arizona will have the same opportunities and ability to get the education tailored to their needs. Governor Ducey has led on this issue, expanding school choice to every family.”
Parent Annie Meade has seen firsthand how Arizona’s education options can impact a child’s education. Her four children have had a combination of homeschool, microschool and public education. Universal ESAs stand to bring new opportunities to her kids, who are now all eligible. Meade spoke about her enthusiasm for the education savings accounts at the ceremony today.
“Kids deserve to be in the education environment in which they can thrive, but so many families have been limited by their income, or zip code,” said Meade. “The Empowerment Scholarship Account program was something that I learned about from other friends who had qualified, but unfortunately, our family never had access to the scholarship, until now. The passage and signing of H.B. 2853 means that now every Arizona family will have the freedom, the choice, and the opportunity to choose an ESA for their child’s education…Thank you again, Rep. Ben Toma, and Governor Doug Ducey, for making this scholarship a reality for families like mine.”
The students at Phoenix Christian are no strangers to the benefits of education savings accounts. Jeff Blake, the school’s superintendent, spoke about the resources and one-on-one learning students receive at his school.
“At Phoenix Christian Preparatory, we are proud to have 31 students on Empowerment Scholarship Accounts,” Blake said. “This funding has helped our school serve many students in need and bring them an education that best suits them. With universal school choice, we’ll be able to serve more students with an exceptional education. We’re grateful for the foresight and leadership of Governor Ducey and the Arizona Legislature for prioritizing every K-12 student.”
Drew Anderson, senior pastor of First Watch Ministries and Legacy Christian Center in South Phoenix has worked with kids in his South Phoenix community to achieve academic success.
“Education is the great equalizer in America,” he said. “If we are able to give our lower-income families and minorities with better education, we’re unlocking the doors to success for so many who are often left behind. As a pastor I’ve seen too many of our black and brown children struggling, just looking for some guidance on homework. I’m grateful to Governor Ducey and the Legislature for saving our kids.”
Arizona families who participate in ESAs would receive more than $6,500 per year per child for private school, homeschooling, microschools, tutoring, or any other kinds of educational service that helps meet the needs of their students outside the traditional public school system.
Janelle Wood, founder of the Black Mothers Forum, spoke about the partnership she formed with Governor Ducey starting in 2020 to “fight to make sure our black children have an opportunity to live and breathe in a safe and supportive community whether that be a learning community, in their living community or in their homes.”
Wood continued, “As a concerned black mother, I want to make sure that we are heard loud and clear from this day forth. We matter, our children matter and we’re not going anywhere. We’re going to keep speaking to each system that holds our families back and our children back.”
Arizona’s universal education savings accounts now serve as the model for the rest of the nation to follow. Education choice advocate Corey DeAngelis, a senior fellow at the American Federation for Children, called the monumental legislation “the biggest school choice victory, not just in Arizona, but in U.S. history.”
Of the unprecedented school choice initiative, DeAngelis said, “This is how you truly empower parents and truly secure parental rights in education. I want to thank Governor Ducey for empowering every single family in the state of Arizona. This is a national model.”
He then led the crowd of students, parents and community members in a chant: “Arizona will now fund students not systems.”
Two important legislators in funding students were Senate President Karen Fann and House Speaker Rusty Bowers.
“Every parent wants nothing more than to see their child succeed,” Fann said. “This session, we committed to expanding educational opportunity. Working with Governor Ducey and the Arizona House, we delivered. Each and every Arizona student has access to an education environment that will suit their needs. The Empowerment Scholarship Account will transform education in our state and bring unlocked potential to our kids.”
“In Arizona, we fund students, not systems,” Bowers said. “One size does not fit all when it comes to education. Universal Empowerment Scholarship Accounts will ensure the money follows the children as they are enabled to attend the school environment that works best for them. The Arizona House of Representatives has worked collaboratively with Governor Ducey for years to expand school choice for every student. Today, we celebrate the empowerment of 1.1 million students and their parents to choose the learning environment they need.”