Arizona parents interested in taking advantage of the state’s newly expanded private school voucher program should be able to do so for the upcoming school year.
The bill, signed by Gov. Doug Ducey last week, makes it so that all Arizona school children are eligible to apply for state money to help pay for private or parochial schools. Previously, the Empowerment Scholarships were only available to students who met certain eligibility requirements.
Vouchers can be used to cover the cost of tuition or fees, textbooks, tutoring and curricula. For children with special needs, the money can be used to help pay for vocational or life-skills education, psychological or educational evaluations, assistive technology rentals, and braille translation services.
Here’s what you need to know about the new law:
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Over the course of the next few years, all students in grades K-12 will be eligible to apply for funding, but that’s not the case for the upcoming school year.
For the 2017-18 academic year, it is open to children in kindergarten, first, sixth and ninth grades. Students in any grade who meet the eligibility requirements previously established can still apply.
That criteria includes children of people in the military on active duty, foster children, all children in failing schools, and those living on Indian reservations.
Grades second, seventh and 10th will be added for the 2018-19 school year, followed by third, eighth and 11th for the 2019-20 school year. By the 2020-21 school year, all students in grades kindergarten through 12 will be eligible to apply.
HOW MANY VOUCHERS WILL BE AWARDED?
A cap has been set for 5,500 new students for the coming school year. Combined with the old cap of 3,500, there could be as many as 9,000 students on the program for the 2017-18 school year.
The Arizona Department of Education says it’s doubtful that cap will be met since the old one isn’t currently being met.
An additional 5,500 students will be able to sign up each year until it caps out at 30,000 by 2022.
WHAT ARE THEY WORTH?
The amount awarded depends on the child’s need.
Awards for non-special needs children range from $3,000 to $7,800 with an average award of $5,728. For special needs applicants, the range is $3,000 to $33,500 with an average award of $18,971.
HOW MUCH DOES PRIVATE SCHOOL COST?
There are about five dozen private schools in Pima County, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Tuition varies for each school, ranging from $5,100 up to $16,675 per year.
Tuition at Tucson’s largest private high school, Salpointe, will be $9,400 next year, not including registration or supply fees.
WHERE DO I APPLY?
The application for the upcoming school year is not yet available but the Arizona Department of Education recommends that parents keep an eye out for it at azed.gov/esa.
Applications submitted by May 10, if approved, will be processed in time for the new school year.
Source: Arizona Department of Education
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