Everything Parents Need to Know About the AZ Empowerment Scholarship Account

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What is an Arizona ESA? 

Let's begin by understanding what ESA stands for. ESA is an acronym used in the education space. On a broader scale, it stands for Education Savings Account. Each state has it's own name for this type of program. For example, in West Viriginia, it's called the Hope Scholarship Account and in Utah, it's called the Utah Fits All Scholarship Program. In Arizona, it is called the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account which happens to share the same acronym.

The AZ ESA is a program that allows parents to access funds that would have been spent by the state to educate their children in a public or charter school. These funds go into a special account that, while still regulated by the AZ Department of Education, allows parents to fund their child's educational experience in ways that best fit their needs. This includes paying for curricula for homeschool, educational therapies, private tutoring, private school, virtual school and additional supplemental education tools and supplies such as books, computers and notebooks.

These funds are usually enough to fund a child's full Prenda microschool experience! Click here to grab your free Arizona ESA Details E-Book.

A Brief History of ESAs in Arizona

The Arizona ESA program was first established in 2012. It was the first in the entire nation! However, when it first began, the program was limited to students that met specific criteria (such as foster care or special education status). In 2022, Arizona passed a bill for the Universal ESA that expanded access to every K-12 student in Arizona without any qualifying criteria. Over the years, the program has gone from 148 students in the first year to about 11,000 students before the expansion. The program grew rapidly after the new "Universal ESA" law was passed in October of 2022 and as of December 2023, has over 71,000 participants.

As mentioned, numerous states such as West Virginia, Utah, and Florida have passed similar laws, and additional states are considering putting these types of laws into effect for more school choice for parents.

>>Download our FREE ESA Details E-Book!

How do I apply for an Arizona ESA?

First, log in or create an account on the Arizona Department of Education website. The application process is quite simple and quick to complete. As a parent, you will need to provide your student's Birth Certificate and Proof of Residency documents to quality. If your child is identified as having a disability who has an IEP, MET, 504 Plan, or an IEE at the time of application, you will need to provide additional documents and information during the application process.  

Eligibility Requirements (Some Categories Include Additional Funding)

  • Preschool or K-12 students identified as having a disability
  • Students with an IEP, MET, or 504 Plan or IEE
  • Students of a parent/legal guardian who is a actively in the Armed Forces or who was killed in the line of duty
  • Students with a parent who is legally blind, deaf, or hard of hearing
  • Students who are currently attending a D/F rated public school or district
  • Students who reside within a Native American Reservation
  • Students who are wards of the court
  • Students who have a sibling who is/was an ESA recipient
  • Students who have previously received an ESA
  • All other students which the ADE calls Universal students in grades K-12

The ADE processes complete applications within 30 days of submission.

Once your application has been processed, you'll "sign your contract," which means you accept the funds and the responsibility to use the funds to educate your child. It is important to note that your child cannot be enrolled in a public or charter school or be receiving money from an STO (School Tuition Organization) before you sign your ESA contract.

Steps to Take for the AZ ESA Application Process and What To Expect After Applying: 

  1. Go to the ADE ESA website - Here you can find information on everything you need to know about the program including eligibility requirements, alowable expenses, ESA login and portal access, the ESA Parent Resources and Handbook, how to contact the ADE and more.
  2. Click on "Click here to Apply for an ESA".
  3. If you are new to creating an account, click on the red button, "No - Create My Account". 
  4. Fill out the application and upload the documents.
  5. Wait and resubmit any documents.
  6. Unenroll your child from public or charter school before signing the contract - Failure to withdraw a student from public school will lead to suspension and possible termination of your ESA account.
  7. You will get an email explaining your application has been approved. An additional email with the contract will be sent to you that will need to be signed within a certain amount of day.  
  8. Sign your contract.
  9. Access Your Class Wallet Account and start using the funds.

How Much ESA Funds Will I Receive? 

Arizona Empowerment Scholarship accounts are funded with 90% of what would have been spent by the student's neighborhood public school. On average, studens curently recieve about $6,000 - $7,000 depending on location and grade level. Increased funding is given to students who are identified as having a disability or other qualifying factors.

ESA Funding

You can access the approximate funding amounts on the ADE website.

AZ ESA funds are given to students on a quarterly basis. The funding beings the quarter the contract is completed. Here are the current quarterly funding dates: 

  • Quarter 1: July 1 - September 30
  • Quarter 2: October 1 - December 31
  • Quarter 3: January 1 - March 31
  • Quarter 4: April 1 - June 30

ESA Portal

Students receive an online account through a third party payment processor called Class Wallet. You can access your Class Wallet through the ESA portal.

Your student will receive their funding for the quarter within that first month, typically between the 15th and 30th of the first month of each quarter. It may take up to 5-7 business days for the funds to show up in the Class Wallet account.

As a parent, you do not need to spend all of your child's funds each quarter. If you have money left, it continues to roll over to the next quarter to be used on education.  You can even allo the funding to roll over to pay for state college tuition. Once a student has completed the ESA program which is when they have graduated from high school or received a GED, they will have four additional years to use remaining funds in the account.

What is Required Once I Sign My AZ ESA Contract? 

When you sign the contract, you agree to certain terms and conditions, such as using a portion of the funds to provide an education in the following subjects:

  • reading
  • grammar
  • mathematics
  • social studies
  • and science

How Do I Use The Funds?

Log into your Class Wallet account and follow the instructions to connect your bank account to your Class Wallet account. (The Department of Education has provided this step-by-step guide.)

When you enroll at a Prenda microschool, your guide will let you know how much your total fee is. Prenda will send you a quarterly invoice which you will then upload to Class Wallet. The Department of Education will approve the payment and transfer the money from your class wallet account to Prenda. Done!

You can also pay for tutoring, school supplies, and extracurricular activities (piano lessons, soccer, etc.). Upload your receipt to Class Wallet and wait for the expenditure to be approved. Funds from your Class Wallet account will then be transferred to your bank account.

IMPORTANT: Read the parent handbook in detail! Some expenditures are not covered; you'll need to know what is and isn't allowed before making any purchases.

How much can I expect to receive in ESA funds?

ESAs are funded at 90 percent of the state's per-student base funding. Check out ADE's average funding chart for a more detailed list of estimated funding. Funding allocations vary by the school district you live in and whether or not your child has additional needs (like an IEP that needs to be serviced).

Most microschools cost between 5,500-7,000 dollars per year, including the full Prenda learning experience, access to 24/7 math tutoring, a dedicated academic coach, and typically about 20 hours of class time per week.

Where can I find more information?

Be sure to check out the Arizona ESA Networking group on Facebook. Also, check out the 2023-2024 ESA Parent Handbook and ADE's Parent Guide. If you have questions about using ESA funds to pay for Prenda, please get in touch with us

Want to start your own ESA-funded Prenda microschool?

If you are curious about starting your own ESA microschool, take our FREE 30-minute course: The Beginner's Guide to Microschooling, or fill out this form, and our team will contact you!

Download Your FREE Arizona ESA  Details E-Book

You will get a free Arizona ESA  Details E-Book when you sign up for weekly parenting tips, The Sunday Spark. Fill out the form below: 

Originally published on July 11, 2023; updated and additional information added on December 11, 2023

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