Arizona ESA Program

The Arizona ESA Program – What Is It and How Does It Work?

Over the past several years, more parents have questioned whether public schools are the best option for their children. As a result, more significant opportunities with school choice have been one of the top demands. As a response, the Arizona ESA Program offers greater flexibility to participating students and families.


What is the Arizona ESA Program?

Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) program lets families opt out of public schools. Instead, they receive the portion of public funding that would have been used for the student at the public school. They can then use these funds for approved educational expenses such as private school tuition, online education, private academic tutoring, or other educational expenses.

As of late 2022, all Arizona students are eligible to participate in the ESA program, and over 30,000 students took advantage of this benefit. This figure grew sharply between 2022 and 2023. The estimated average account value is $11,332 per student, including students with special needs.

How Do ESAs Work?

ESAs are funded at 90% of the state’s per-student base funding, which was set at approximately $6,400 for elementary, middle, and high school students without special needs in 2020-2021. Students with special needs receive additional funding, depending upon the unique needs of the disability. Although all students in Arizona school districts are eligible to receive an ESA, they may not simultaneously receive ESA funding and financial assistance through Arizona’s tuition tax credit program.

There are no income limits to participation, prior-year school requirements, testing mandates, and enrollment caps.

However, to participate, parents must consent to several things and agree to the following:

  • To provide an education that includes the subjects of reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies, and science.
  • To not enroll the student in the public school district or charter school.
  • To release the school district from its obligation to educate the student.
  • To not accept a scholarship under Arizona’s general tax credit scholarship programs.
  • To use the money in the ESA for purposes outlined in the law, such as private school tuition that includes basic education.

How to Apply for the Arizona ESA Program?

Enrolling in Arizona’s ESA program is relatively simple and includes just four steps.


  • Submit your ESA application. An application must be submitted to the Arizona Department of Education (ADE). Parents must submit the required documentation with the application, such as proof of residence and the student’s birth certificate.
  • Sign the ESA contract. Once an application has been approved and processed, the ADE will send an ESA contract for parents to sign.
  • Access the ESA Funds using ClassWallet. The ADE distributes funds into a virtual account using ClassWallet, a third-party vendor. Parents are provided access to this account to use for approved education expenses.
  • Pay the vendors or school. Parents can access the virtual account and directly pay approved vendors, schools, or private education services. In addition to the virtual account, parents can request a prepaid debit card or receive reimbursements for approved education expenses that were made using personal funds.

There are several schools where Arizona’s ESAs cover 100% of tuition costs, including for students with special needs. Parents interested in learning more about the program can access the 2022-2023 ESA Parent Handbook for more information about program requirements.

What are the Benefits of Participating in the ESA Program?

In addition to the greater flexibility with school choice, families participating in the ESA program can experience several benefits, such as:


  • Greater preparedness for fluid education. There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic had a severe impact on school-aged children. In fact, many kids who shifted to online courses or homeschooling are still trying to catch up with educational benchmarks for their age. ESAs allow greater flexibility for parents to secure the best educational resources for their children, no matter what else is happening in the world. Even in another pandemic, the student will have educational resources to reduce the likelihood of falling behind.
  • Greater student equality. ESAs are accessible to every child in Arizona in primary or secondary school regardless of the family’s background or income. This feature ensures all students have the same opportunities for accessing education.
  • They make private education affordable. Most families use public schools because private schools aren’t financially feasible. But with ESAs, any family can pay for most private schooling, as the average tuition rate for grades K-8 in Arizona is $6,600.
  • They save taxpayers money. Arizona public schools receive over $11,300 in funding per student per year, whereas ESAs offer typical awards of $7,000, which is enough to pursue private education resources. These savings are passed along to taxpayers.

The Arizona ESA program ensures students have more educational choices and makes more financial sense. This is good news for parents questioning the current school system and whether it’s the right choice for their students.

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