top of page
  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

How AZ parents spend ESAs: Specialty schools, private schools -- and karate lessons!

How are Arizona parents spending Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) money? They're paying for educational products and services, writes Jason Bedrick, a research fellow at Heritage's Center for Education Policy.


School-choice opponents touted an “explosive” report from ABC15 about ESA spending, he writes. But it turns out that families are doing just what the program authorizes them to do.


All K-12 students in Arizona are now eligible for an ESA. A typical student receives about $7,300, compared to roughly $15,000 spent per pupil, on average, at Arizona public schools. Students with disabilities get more, depending on their needs.


ESA parents spent about two-thirds of $304 million in funding on private-school tuition, with nearly half of that ($91 million) spent at “specialty schools that focus on kids with disabilities,” particularly autism. Another $53 million was spent on school supplies. What Save Our Schools (SOS) Arizona really hates, Bedrick writes, is the last $50 million spent on “educational activities and vendors.”

SOS had no problem when public schools spent public funds on things like “hula hoops, color-coded piano keyboards, comfortable seating for reading, folklórico shoes for special dance lessons, K’Nex kits, VR headsets, gardening supplies, and more,” he writes.

But the group's leaders complain that ESA families are paying for martial-arts instruction, trampoline parks, and climbing gyms, as well as music lessons. Of course, public schools provide P.E. and music, Bedrick writes. That includes "martial arts instruction and piano lessons." For example, Tucson Unified schools offer instruction in “band, orchestra, guitar, piano, steel drums, mariachi, Taiko drumming and more,” as well as “folklórico, modern and ballroom dance” and “jazz, tap and ballet.”

“Not all children fit within the box of public education,” Leila Woodard, the mother of a 7-year-old boy with autism and other disabilities, told ABC15. Her child “had been kicked out of a couple of schools; they couldn’t accommodate his needs.” Now she’s running a “homeschool pod” for her son and four friends, and using their ESA funds on tutors and classroom supplies.


Sarah Clanton, blind and developmentally delayed, develops her strength and sensory skills at a therapeutic riding center. Florida's scholarships for students with special needs covers the cost.


“We wanted to provide clarity,” said Doug Tuthill, president of Step Up For Students, which manages scholarships. “We want to provide as much flexibility as possible for families," while ensuring "tax dollars are being spent in the most efficient and effective way possible.”


Field trips, including tickets to Florida theme parks, are covered, but the guide allows reimbursement of only the scholarship student’s ticket. "It’s not unusual for public schools to take field trips to a theme park,” Tuthill said.


5 則留言


Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
2023年10月10日

If American state schools were better, these bursaries wouldn't be needed for basic education. As U.S. public schooling is now governed, they are, particularly in California, where the governor and the superintendent who wants to succeed Governor Newsom combined to betray our state's children perhaps worse than anywhere else, and got reelected anyway; therefore, in addition to the upper secondary level where ESAs are broadly needed to compete with America's uncompetitive high school model, in transgressive states they are increasingly needed at earlier levels in the child's educational journey, since state schools here are in such obvious decline.

按讚

訪客
2023年10月10日

Does one have to attend private schools to get the use the money for horse riding lessons or martial arts or can any student get that money?

按讚
訪客
2023年10月11日
回覆

What are the rules in ARizona concerning home schooled children playing sports on public high school teams? Several states, including Florida, let homeschooled children play on varsity public school teams. Of course, this has lead to abuses.

按讚
bottom of page