Since 1997 Arizona has led the way, giving families the freedom to choose the best K-12 education for their children.

Arizona’s School Choice Programs

Empowerment Scholarship Account

Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) Program began in the 2011-2012 school year.  An ESA gives parents the ability to customize their child’s education.  Eligible students now include children with special needs, children in failing public schools, children in permanent placement or adopted from foster care, children of active duty military personnel, children living on tribal lands and children with a parent or guardian who has a visual or hearing impairment.

E-mail ssmith@federationforchildren.org for more information.

The ESA is a state-funded program administered by the Arizona Department of Education.  The average ESA amount is $5,500 and students with special needs receive additional funding based on their IEP eligibility category.  

ESA funds can be used to pay for private school tuition, uniforms, books, home school curriculum, tutoring and other educational services and therapies.

 

Tax Credit Scholarship Programs

 

Individual and PLUS Tuition Tax Credit Program

The nation’s longest running scholarship tax credit program, Arizona’s Individual Scholarship Tax Credit and the new “PLUS” or Switcher Tax Credit, provide all Arizona taxpayers the opportunity to contribute directly to a School Tuition Organization (STO) and receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit against their Arizona state tax liability.  

The STO uses these tax credit funds to provide scholarships to both children attending and children wishing to attend private schools.  

For Tax Year 2018, a married couple filing jointly can claim a maximum credit of up to $2,213.  An individual tax filer can claim up to $1,107.

Deadline to participate for TY 2018 is April 15, 2019. 

STOs in Arizona are certified by and report annually to the Arizona Department of Revenue.

 

Corporate Low-Income Scholarship Tax Credit Program

C-Corporations, S-Corporations and insurance companies with an Arizona corporate income tax liability or an insurance premium tax liability can redirect up to 100% of that liability to a state approved School Tuition Organization (STO) and receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for their contribution.  The statewide cap on this program increases by 20% each year.  For FY 2018 the amount available is $89.1 million.  

This tax credit program is administered by the Arizona Department of Revenue and scholarships are required by law to benefit students from low-income families.

 

Corporate Tax Credit Program for Children with Special Needs and Foster Children (Lexie’s Law)

In 2009 the Arizona legislature passed “Lexie’s Law” (also referred to as the Disabled/Displaced Tuition Tax Credit Program).

Lexie’s Law allows corporations to redirect their Arizona state tax liability to help fund scholarships for children in Preschool through 12th grade with special needs, children in foster care or adopted from foster care.  Lexie’s Law, named after an Arizona special-needs student, is capped at $5 million annually.

Students must have an MET, IEP or 504 plan from an Arizona public or charter school to qualify and there are no income requirements.

Notes for parents interested in applying for tax credit scholarships:

  • There are over 50 STOs operating in Arizona
  • Children can receive scholarships from multiple STOs
  • All STOs have slightly different requirements and application deadlines
  • Ask private schools about any STOs that they work with
  • Make sure you apply for ALL of the various STO scholarship programs your child qualifies for! For example, if your child has EVER had an IEP or 504 plan, they qualify for Lexie’s Law.  If they are also coming from a public or charter school, they qualify for the Individual and PLUS scholarship programs as well! 

For more information on tax credit scholarship programs and to find STOs that are certified to accept tax credit contributions, visit www.astoa.com

To find private schools in your area visit www.privateschoolreview.com

 

Public School Choice Programs

Charter Schools

There are more than 560 charter schools in Arizona serving more than 170,000 students. Charter schools are public schools that receive government funding but are free to offer innovative curriculum, special incentives for teachers, and targeted education to children. Charter schools are often created by local nonprofits, colleges and universities, state or local charter school boards, and local school boards.

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District Schools and Online Schools

Arizona state law allows students to apply for admission to ANY district school, based on available classroom space.  Students are not required to attend a school in a specific “zone”.

Find district schools in your area at www.greatschools.org

Additionally, online public schools are tuition-free options for students who would prefer to learn at home, or outside of the traditional school environment.  Students can even receive special education services. There are more than 40 approved online schools and programs available throughout Arizona. 

Find online programs at https://www.niche.com/k12/search/best-online-schools/s/arizona/

Home Education

Arizona is a great state for families interested in home education!  Visit Arizona Families for Home Education at www.afhe.org for more information about homeschooling in Arizona.