Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey considers school choice expansion his proudest accomplishment

Oct 13, 2022, 2:15 PM | Updated: 7:22 pm

PHOENIX – As his time in office winds down, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said Thursday he considers the state’s school voucher expansion his proudest accomplishment.

“I’m very proud of the flat tax, but the expansion of school choice in Arizona — the fact that we’re the gold standard for educational freedom, this universal ESA [Empowerment Scholarship Account] … is available to every parent in the state of Arizona,” Ducey told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show.

Ducey, who has less than three months left in his second and final term, said he expects Arizona’s school choice program to be a model for other states.

“I think not only can this reform K-12 education; I think this can renew our nation,” he said.

Republican lawmakers passed the legislation, and Ducey signed it in July. The law went into effect last month after an effort to block it through the voter referendum process fell short of the required signatures.

ESAs were previously available only to students who met certain criteria, including having a disability, living on a tribal reservation or attending a failing school.

The expansion gives every family in Arizona the option of taking up to around $7,000 per student in public funds that would have gone to the K-12 public school system and use it for private school tuition, homeschool materials or other education costs.

“I really encourage everyone to take advantage of this if they need it, if you want to make a change in in schools, and we’re the first state in the country to get this done,” Ducey said.

Opponents of the program worry that as much as $1 billion could be siphoned from the approximately $8 billion that had been allocated to fund the state’s public schools. There are also concerns that since the voucher amount doesn’t cover full tuition at many private schools, families already wealthy enough to afford options outside the public system will benefit the most.

The Arizona Department of Education said last week that 23,502 applications for universal ESAs had been received as of Oct. 5, 80% of which were for students with no previous record in the public school system.

ESAs are funded on a quarterly basis, and the first quarter ended Sept. 30. Normally, applications are due by the end of the quarter. But so many applicants were coming in that the deadline to apply for retroactive first-quarter funds was moved to midnight Saturday.

Details about the process are available on the Department of Education website.

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey considers school choice expansion his proudest accomplishment