The ESA voucher program currently costs the state of Arizona $110 million per year to pay for the private, often religious, school tuition and personal educational expenses of approximately 7,000 students.
ESA vouchers are state tax dollars cut from public schools and given directly to recipients via debit card. The average ESA voucher per student per year is $12,585, though some students get closer to $6,000 and others $40,000 per student per year. The average state spending for Arizona public district and charter school students is $5,550 per student per year.
As it is now, the ESA voucher program does not give priority for students with special needs, which make up approximately 60% of the ESA voucher population. The other 40% of the ESA voucher program is first-come-first-served for students with a military parent, students who would otherwise attend a D- or F-rated school, students in foster care, students who live on tribal reservations, and all siblings of any qualified students.
As it is now, the ESA voucher program allows recipients to “roll over” all unspent state funds year after year, with some recipients maintaining balances of over $100,000. The ESA voucher program also allows recipients to continue using the state’s K-12 education funds to pay for personal college expenses after the ESA voucher student has graduated from high school and until the age of 22.
As it is now, the law allows ESA voucher recipients to transfer state funds to their children’s personal college savings accounts, such as Coverdell or 529 accounts.
It is unknown if and how the state retrieves the funds ESA voucher recipients don’t use on appropriate expenses during or after their K-12 education.