BOOM! Arizona lawmakers pass broad ESA expansion

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Arizona lawmakers passed legislation tonight that will phase in near universal eligibility for ESA program. This will start with public school students in kindergarten and 1st grade, 6th grade and 9th grade in 2017-18, and then add grades from the on ramps (K,1,2 and 6,7 and 9-10 in year 2 and the next year K,1,2,3 and 6,7,8,9,10,11). The bill will also increase academic transparency and improve administration of the program.

Governor Doug Ducey’s stalwart support of expanding options proved crucial to this victory. Huge kudos to the bill sponsor Senator Lesko and Rep. Allen as well legislative leadership in both chambers and the members who took a tough vote in the face of determined opposition. Groups including the American Federation for Children, Americans for Prosperity Arizona, the Arizona Catholic Conference, the Arizona Chamber, the Center for Arizona Policy, Ed Choice, Excel in Ed and the Goldwater Institute all made vital contributions. Senator Worsley also deserves recognition as someone who played the role of honest broker in crafting a compromise that a winning coalition in each chamber supported. We’d all like to live in a world where there was no need to compromise, but that world is not the one we find ourselves in.

The Census Bureau recently announced that Maricopa County (Phoenix metro) as the fastest growing county in the nation-nudging out the Houston area. Enrollment growth is firing up again and the expanded ESA will give parents a broadening array of private educational choices to consider in what is already a robust public choice market. ESAs are an unfolding experiment in liberty, and future legislatures will debate further refinements and improvements, but this is the first big private choice victory of 2017, so…

7 Responses to BOOM! Arizona lawmakers pass broad ESA expansion

  1. Greg Forster says:

    Congratulations Arizona!

  2. George Mitchell says:

    Matt, your analysis of the bill’s final provisions, including per/pupil funding enrollment caps, would be welcome. Enrollment caps can be a bureaucratic nightmare. Presumably they were needed to secure final passage.

    • matthewladner says:

      The law already had a cap on the annual enrollment of new students set at one half of one percent of the total public school population. This now sits at close to 6,000 new ESA students per year. This cap had been scheduled to expire in 2019, but will now extend until 2022. In 2023, the cap changes to a total enrollment cap set at the number of participants in 2022- limiting new entry to the rate of annual attrition.

      So yes this will create a “lift the cap” challenge for our coalition.

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