Arizona Enacts Universal ESA Program, Expanding School Choice for All K-12 Families

PHOENIX — Arizona has enacted the most expansive school choice legislation in the nation into law, ensuring kids and families in every corner of Arizona can access the education that best fits their needs.

“This is a monumental moment for all of Arizona’s students. Our kids will no longer be locked in under-performing schools. Today, we’re unlocking a whole new world of opportunity for them and their parents,” said Governor Ducey. “With this legislation, Arizona cements itself as the top state for school choice and as the first state in the nation to offer all families the option to choose the school setting that works best for them. Every family in Arizona should have access to a high-quality education with dedicated teachers. This is truly a win for all K-12 students. I commend Senate President Karen Fann, House Speaker Rusty Bowers, Rep. Ben Toma and all the lawmakers who voted for this important legislation and put students first.”

H.B. 2853, sponsored by Rep. Ben Toma, ensures all Arizona K-12 students will now be eligible for scholarship funds to access the education that best fits their unique needs. 

“In Arizona, we fund students, not systems, because we know one size does not fit all students,” said House Majority Leader Ben Toma. “It was my privilege to sponsor the most expansive school choice law in the nation, opening Empowerment Scholarship Account eligibility to all school-age children without restriction. I appreciate Governor Ducey for his strong support to help Arizona become the first state with a truly universal ESA program, delivering educational freedom to more than 1.1 million students.”

Arizona families who participate would receive more than $6,500 per year per child for private school, homeschooling, micro schools, tutoring, or any other kinds of educational services that helps meet the needs of their students outside the traditional public school system.

“Our kids have been crying out for better schools to be open to them,” said Drew Anderson, senior pastor of First Watch Ministries and Legacy Christian Center in South Phoenix. “Today we said ‘enough is enough.’ We broke open those doors and saved our children. As a pastor I’ve seen too many of our black and brown children struggling; going to fast food restaurants just to connect to WiFi or just looking for some guidance on homework. I’m grateful to Governor Ducey and the Legislature for putting our kids first by expanding the Empowerment Scholarship Account program. We avoided a crisis for our children and helped them achieve greatness.”

In addition to the monumental legislation, the bill includes improvements to make accessing an ESA a more user-friendly process for parents.

“My five children benefit from the Empowerment Scholarship Account program,” said Jenny Clark, founder of Love Your School. “Because of the program, our kids had access to wonderful curriculum, resources and special education that they needed. It has been life changing. Every Arizona child now has access to the same opportunities – unbound by their parents’ income. Thanks to the hard work of Governor Ducey and the Arizona Legislature, all Arizona students have equitable access to a great education.”

“With the signing of this bill, Governor Ducey and Arizona Republicans freed thousands of families from government-run schools that aren’t meeting their needs,” said Senior Fellow of the American Federation for Children Corey DeAngelis. “Arizona families will no longer be forced to send their children’s taxpayer-funded education dollars to government-run schools regardless of their choices. All Arizona families will finally be able to direct their children’s taxpayer-funded education dollars to the education providers that best meet their needs, whether it be a public, private, charter, or home-based educational option. Arizona has figured out how to fund students instead of systems, and now solidly leads the nation in educational freedom.”

This legislation complements the overwhelmingly successful, bipartisan budget the governor signed last week, which provides historic levels of funding for public district and charter education options as well. 

The Fiscal Year 2023 budget invests an additional $1 billion in year-over-year spending, with total K-12 spending for this year reaching $8.45 billion. This includes: 

  • $329 million to raise the base support level of education spending, representing the single largest dollar and percentage increase in per pupil funding in 20 years;
  • $183.3 million to maintain school facilities, the single largest investment in building renewal in the history of the program; and
  • $100 million in special education funding for Arizona public schools and $50 million in ongoing funding for school safety.

This is Governor Ducey’s final action of the 55th Arizona Legislature. The Governor signed 387 bills which prioritized K-12 education, water, infrastructure, veterans, health care and more.

Read the governor’s signing letter HERE.


Arizona has bolstered its leadership in school choice options for students and families, expanding programs for greater open enrollment, new transportation models, more charter schools and more educational freedom for families.

In Arizona, families can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, homeschooling and microschools.

Open Enrollment

Students and families may go to the school of their choice through Arizona’s open enrollment for public school districts. A resource for families especially during the pandemic, open enrollment empowers families to pursue the best education for their children.

Charter Schools

Over the last seven years, Arizona has strengthened its position as a national leader in school choice. The state has more than 550 public charter schools teaching 230,000 students – approximately 20 percent of all students enrolled in public schools throughout the state.


Governor Ducey has worked to expand microschools throughout the state. Microschools provide a smaller learning community, tailored to the needs of each student. The Governor invested $3.5 million to create new microschools through the Black Mothers Forum. The Black Mothers Forum, led by founder Janelle Wood, helps create new, innovative learning models where students receive personalized support.

Open for Learning

In early January, the Governor announced the “Open for Learning Recovery Benefit” program, which ensures parents have the resources they need to get their kids in a classroom.

With this program, if a school closes for even one day, students and families will have access to instruction that best meets their needs. The program funds up to $7,000 for needs related to child care, school-coordinated transportation, online tutoring and school tuition.

The program builds upon the Education Plus Up Grant program which was announced in August 2021 to boost per pupil spending.