SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, William Schmarzo, Yeshim Deniz, Jason Bloomberg

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Arizona Lawmakers Pass Expansion of Groundbreaking School Choice Program

Legislative action would expand education savings accounts across the state

PHOENIX, March 29, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Arizona legislature today passed a plan that would expand the state's education savings accounts program, a first-of-its-kind school choice program offering parents an unprecedented level of choice in their children's education.

The American Federation for Children—the nation's voice for school choice—praised Governor Jan Brewer for her past support for the program, as well as the legislators who steered House Bill 2626, which would expand the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) program, through the chamber. The ESA program is the nation's first-ever education savings account program.

The new legislation—which passed by a 39-15 vote—would increase the number of students who would qualify for ESAs.

In addition to special needs students, who currently qualify, the legislation would allow the following students to enroll in the program: those who attend a school or school district rated a "D" or "F" by the state department of education, children of a member of the U.S. Military, and students identified as gifted.

"We applaud Arizona legislators for their work towards creating wonderful new pathways for students to succeed through expanded educational options," said Betsy DeVos, chairman of the American Federation for Children. "This program is already groundbreaking, and now even more children will benefit as a result of this important expansion."

Arizona enacted the ESA program—its fourth publicly funded private school choice program and the nation's first education savings account—in April 2011. The program allows parents of students who are identified as having a disability to receive 90 percent of the per-pupil expenditure to use on a variety of educational tools, including tuition and fees, textbooks, educational therapies, and tutoring.

"It is a great day for Arizona families, particularly those whose children have languished in failing schools," said State Representative Debbie Lesko. "No longer will a parent's zip code relegate their children to a less-successful life."

More than 30,000 students participate in all four of the state's private school choice programs. There are currently 142 families participating in the ESA program this school year.

SOURCE American Federation for Children

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