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SB 1395 - Empowerment scholarship accounts; program revisions

Tracking Level: Oppose
Sponsor: Sylvia Allen
Last Action: 2/27/2019 - Senate minority caucus: Do pass
Senate Committee: Rules
Assigned To:
School ChoiceNext Bill

Staff Analysis of the Legislation

SB1395 empowerment scholarship accounts; program revisions

The bill makes numerous revisions to the ESA voucher program including expanding eligibility and restricting ADE actions in overseeing the program.

  • Allows a student residing within the attendance boundary of a D or F-rated school or school district to receive an ESA, regardless of whether the student attends the D or F-rated school.
  • Allows a student who is otherwise eligible for an ESA Voucher to enroll in a Kindergarten program, and therefore be exempt from the previous public school attendance requirement if the student is at least four but under seven years of age.
  • Requires a school district or charter school to provide requested documentation regarding school attendance within ten days of a request from ADE.
  • States a student may not receive an STO scholarship at the same time the student is actively enrolled in an ESA Voucher. Current law is “during the same year."
  • Allows ESA Voucher funds awarded may be used for.
    • “Goods” approved by the department, for a student with disabilities.
    • "Supplemental materials" in addition to curricula.
    • Fees for a required exam.
    • Tution or fees for career and technical education and vocational education.
  • Requires each student enrolled in a private school in grades 3-12 to take a nationally standardized norm-referenced achievement examination, AP exam in reading and math, AzMERIT, or a college entrance exam.
    •  Requires the results of the examination to be provided to the student’s parent.
    •  The requirement does not apply to students with disabilities.
  • Requires a school that enrolls fifty or more ESA students, and that administers an achievement test, AP exams, AzMERIT or a college entrance examination to annually make available upon request or on the school’s website the aggregate test scores of all students. A network of schools may satisfy the requirement by publishing the aggregate of all schools within the network.
  • Clarifies a student is eligible to apply for a renewal of an ESA Voucher until the student:
    • Graduates from high school.
    • Earns a General Equivalency Diploma (GED)
    • Until the student turns 22 years of age if the student is identified as a student with disabilities and continues to use at least 50% of ESA Voucher monies for eligible purchases.
  • Allows the department to request confirmation of the qualified student’s progress toward graduation or completion of a GED.
  • Requires ADE to allow applicants to select multiple eligibility criteria when applying for ESA Vouchers.
  • Requires ADE to contract with a private financial management firm to manage the ESA Voucher program.
  • Prohibits the department from deviating from prior interpretations of expenses allowable under the ESA Voucher program.
  • Requires ADE to fund ESA Voucher accounts in monthly installments, as opposed to quarterly, beginning January 1, 2020.
  • States a student’s account shall be funded as of the date the student’s parent agrees to the terms of the account contract.
  • Mandates ADE accept applications for the upcoming school year, and the current school year until April 1.
  • Requires ADE notify an applicant that has been denied an ESA Voucher of the specific reason behind the denial.
  • Requires ADE to adopt policies and procedures regarding expense reporting that do not restrict the types or amounts of curriculum choices, and must allow a parent to respond before denying an expenditure.
  • States ADE must develop a policy handbook for the ESA program, and may not change it unless:
    •  It solicits public comment for at least 60 days.
    •  Submits a copy of the handbook and any policy revision to the governor, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
  • Requires ADE to post certain data regarding ESA Voucher expenditures on its website.
  • Creates the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account Review Council.
    • Repeals the Council on December 31, 2022.

Bill Summary from the State Site - Click for the State Summary Page / Click for Current Full Text / PDF

Empowerment scholarship accounts; program revisions


Empowerment scholarship accounts; program revisions

Introduction Date:

Monday, February 4, 2019