Arizona’s Education Savings Accounts

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from NCPA,

Arizona’s education savings accounts are the most innovative way for parents to find a great education for their child. The Arizona Department of Education deposits 90 percent of an eligible child’s funding from the state funding formula into a parent’s private bank account. Families then use a debit card or an online payment service such as PayPal to pay for such expenses as textbooks, private school tuition, online classes and tutors. Each account results in a cost-savings to the taxpayer, demonstrating that a high-quality education can be provided for less than what taxpayers pay for public schools, says Jonathan Butcher, director of education at the Goldwater Institute.

On May 8, 2013, the Goldwater Institute conducted a focus group for savings-account families. Key findings include:

– Ninety-four percent of participants said they were “very satisfied” with education savings accounts, while 6 percent were “somewhat satisfied”;

– Parents report that the public school and district officials they encounter say they have a low level of knowledge about education savings accounts; and,

– Parents say it is a significant challenge to renew their child’s special needs diagnosis at a public school, which is required to remain eligible for a savings account.

Arizona lawmakers should use the findings from this focus group to streamline the renewal process for special needs classifications and expand the eligibility criteria so more children can benefit from an account. In addition, policymakers should conduct more surveys of participating parents or outsource such a project in order to solicit more feedback, improve the program, and better serve Arizona children.

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