Arizona Legislature Introduces Increased Accountability Measures for Education Savings Account Program

Feb 04, 2013, 11:02 ET from American Federation for Children

Plan would strengthen one-of-a-kind school choice program

PHOENIX, Feb. 4, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Federation for Children—the nation's voice for educational choice—today praised the introduction of bipartisan legislation in the Arizona House of Representatives that would significantly strengthen the state's education savings accounts program, a one-of-a-kind private school choice program that gives families unprecedented control over their children's education.

House Bill 2530, which was introduced on Friday and is expected to have bipartisan support in both houses of the legislature, calls for additional academic accountability measures for the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) program in which participating students would be administered a nationally standardized norm-referenced achievement test. The bill would also compel the state Department of Education to report graduation rates for ESA students, as well as measure how satisfied parents are with their children's performance.

"These are important improvements to a program that has the potential to change the lives of countless Arizona families in desperate need of more educational options," said Kevin P. Chavous, executive counsel to the American Federation for Children. "As we've seen with similar accountability provisions in programs across the country, this bill will benefit children, parents, and citizens across the state."

The ESA program, which was enacted in 2011, allows parents to receive 90 percent of the per-pupil expenditure to use on a variety of educational tools for their children, including tuition and fees, textbooks, educational therapies, and tutoring. There are currently more than 300 students enrolled in the program, which serves students with special needs. Beginning in the 2013-14 school year, students who attend schools rated D or F by the state department of education, children of U.S. military members, and children in foster care will all be eligible for the program.

There are more than 30,000 students enrolled in all four of Arizona's private school choice programs. Nationwide, more than 245,000 students are currently benefiting from 32 programs in 16 states and Washington, D.C.

SOURCE American Federation for Children