DECEMBER 24, 2013

Lawmakers, Goldwater Institute will work to expand education savings accounts in 2014

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The Goldwater Institute will work with Arizona lawmakers next session to expand the state's first-in-the-nation education savings account program to low-income families, according to Goldwater Institute Education Director Jonathan Butcher Monday.

Designed by the Goldwater Institute and first passed by the Arizona Legislature in 2011, education savings accounts allow families to use a portion of state funding that would have been spent on a child in traditional public school to design a custom-made education experience. Parents may spend the money on online classes, personal tutors, homeschooling, and even private-school tuition, among other possible uses.

More than 200,000 children, including special-needs children, children assigned to failing schools, children of active-duty military families, and children adopted out of the state foster system are currently eligible for the accounts. Nearly 1,000 Arizona families are using the accounts this year.

In a policy brief released by the Institute Monday, Butcher traces the successes of the program since its conception, highlighting that more than ninety percent of parents report high levels of satisfaction with the accounts.

In 2014, the Institute will work with Arizona lawmakers to expand the program to children who are eligible for free and reduced lunch. Expansion legislation will steadily increase family income eligibility levels in perpetuity.

In the brief released Monday, Butcher also encourages state lawmakers to continue to strengthen the financial and academic transparency safeguards in the program, to ensure the sanctity of the accounts.

“Every child is unique, and education savings accounts recognize this by allowing parents to choose the education experience that fits their children’s needs best,” said Butcher. “Education savings accounts are the school choice model of the future and Arizona is leading the way.”

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