FiLE - Ducey Universal school choice

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey attends a celebration of the signing of a universal Empowerment Scholarship law that allows all students to use an ESA account to attend the school of their choice. 

(The Center Square) – Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey joined families, educators, and community leaders on Tuesday to celebrate Arizona’s recently-enacted universal school choice law at a time when a challenge to the law is mounting. 

The law makes all Arizona’s school-age children eligible for the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. It’s a state-funded account that lets parents spend money on tuition and other education expenses. Before this bill became law, the state limited this account to disabled students, those in failing schools, and other specific circumstances.

Ducey celebrated the bill at an event at Phoenix Christian Preparatory School families that have used Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts.

“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 underperforming 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 for 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.”

Arizona families who participate in the program 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,” the governor’s office said.

The bill’s sponsor, House Majority Leader Ben Toma, said he thinks the bill will help many families across the state.

“I was proud to continue the Arizona tradition of leading on school choice and bring educational freedom to more than 1.1 million students,” Toma said, according to the press release. “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.”

Yet, not everyone is happy about the law.

Save Our Schools Arizona recently launched a petition drive to overturn this law.

If the organization collects 118,823 valid signatures from registered Arizona voters by September 24, it could stop the law. If the petition effort is successful, the new law would be suspended and only take effect if voters approved it at the ballot box in 2024. 

In 2018, Arizona voters rejected a ballot question that would have made ESAs available for all public school students in the state. The measure failed 35.2% to 64.8%.