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Why The ESA Program Will Help Improve Public Schools

May 23, 2023

By Steve Conroy |

Arizona’s public school system has ranked worst across the 50 United States of America for some time.

Scholaroo set out to find the most and least educated states in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to determine the best and worst school systems per state, the scholarship-centered website compared three key factors:

  • Student Safety – Arizona ranked 45 out of 50
  • Student Success – Arizona ranked 44 out of 50
  • School Quality – Arizona ranked 50 out of 50

According to Scholaroo, Arizona ranks 47th for the least educated, 38th for educational attainment, 48th for school quality, and 48th in the number of colleges/universities per 100,000 adults.

The AZ Schools Report card provides a myriad of statistics. For the most part, Arizona’s public schools are failing miserably with around a 50% proficiency in Mathematics and English among graduating students. Part of the problem is qualified teachers. As an example, Buena High School has 25% of its teachers as non-certified and/or teaching outside of their area of expertise.

I don’t believe it is a lack of funding for the schools. Arizona’s statewide average per-pupil spending for everything is $10,729 in the fiscal year 2022. This marks a nearly 8% increase in spending from the prior fiscal year. But surprisingly, with more students joining the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program, the state surplus has increased by over $1.4 billion. The ESA program has reflected a cost-savings program for the state because each ESA student receives half of what the state allocates for students per year. Therefore, ESAs are saving tax dollars while providing opportunities for parents to select the education source for their children.

When parents elect to move their child to another school or to homeschool, that does not increase the total cost of education. It simply shifts funding to another educational option. I believe parents should be allowed to determine which educational institute provides the best education for their child.

If the public schools want to increase enrollment, they will need to trim overhead, reduce the administrative burden on teachers, and make the education of the students a priority. If they wish to be competitive, they have to make radical changes. Students who cannot complete the basic aptitude tests for their grade level should be held back and tutored.

What does the ESA program offer? It allows parents to use the money allocated to educate their child, to pay for the education model determined by the parent. The state’s expanded ESA program provides up to $7,000 to participating students. Parents can use these funds to pay for private school tuition or to purchase home education courses, tutoring, materials, and supplies. After the COVID-19 debacle with schools closed for almost two years, tutoring to bring students up to the proper grade level is critical and should be a goal for every public school.

Why am I concerned since my children and grandchildren have grown? I see the deleterious effects of their education, and I do not wish that on any future generations. Too many children are being indoctrinated to accept things like socialism and communism, and a lot of that is taking place in our public schools. If we want to save our country, we must start with the education of our children.

I have been pushing for school choice for 40 years. I believe the public education system is ruled by the teachers’ unions, which need to be abolished, and plenty of leftist bureaucrats. Our students are being dumbed down by the current system, and until we get some competition among schools, the public school system will continue to fail our students. I believe there are many teachers who have not been corrupted by things like Critical Race Theory and want to be good teachers. But until we challenge public schools and make other alternatives for parents, the system will continue with their woke agenda. It’s time to take back the education of our children and stop the bureaucratic interventions in our lives. The ESA Program is a great start.

Steve Conroy is a retired military officer and has been actively involved in his community for over 30 years. 

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