Anti-public school rhetoric would have you believe Arizona’s students are “fleeing public school en masse” to take universal ESA vouchers. But this simply isn’t the case.
Despite the passage of universal vouchers in 2022, enrollment at Arizona’s public schools has changed very little from last school year (2021-22) to this one (2022-23): a 2023 ADE report shows just a 0.42% drop in overall enrollment.
Meanwhile, ESA voucher enrollment continues to rapidly spiral skyward. As of May 5th, 54,566 kids in Arizona are using vouchers. The size of Arizona’s ESA voucher program has now surpassed enrollment at Mesa Public Schools, which until now was the largest district in Arizona for over 30 years.
A whopping 80% of families applying for newly expanded ESA vouchers were already choosing private school or homeschool. Our state’s decision to subsidize those students via ESA vouchers is not impacting public school enrollment — but it is creating a massive reduction in Arizona’s ability to fund public schools.
And, with the ESA voucher program now taking applications for the 2023-24 school year, the number of wealthy families receiving these taxpayer-funded coupons will continue to snowball.
The only “exodus” from public schools is the flood of taxpayer dollars being diverted to universal ESA vouchers. It is impossible to provide our neighborhood schools the resources they need while ESA vouchers are draining half a billion dollars (and growing!), much of it unbudgeted, from public coffers each year.