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Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Accounts

Written By Geoff Nixon . January 22, 2023

Class Wallet Funding for Home-Based Learning in Arizona

If your child attends school in Arizona or will start kindergarten in the upcoming school year, you may qualify for an Arizona Empowerment Scholarship. The program was designed to give parents and legal guardians greater control over the education their children receive.

While it was originally designed to expand access to private schools for students with special needs, most children in the state are now eligible for a scholarship.

What is the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) Program?

The Arizona Empowerment Scholarship program started in 2011 to offer scholarships to students with special needs to ensure access to private schools.

Since then it has been added to several times, the most significant being the 2022 House Bill 2853. This bill determined that all K-12 students already enrolled in private schools were eligible for empowerment scholarships, regardless of family income. It included all students already homeschooling as well.

How is the ESA Program Funded?

All Arizona Empowerment Scholarships are funded by the state. That money comes out of funding  for public schools in proportion to school enrollment.  Each child awarded an empowerment scholarship receives 90% of the funds their school would have received for their enrollment. Children with special needs and other select populations may receive additional funding.

This system allows parents to determine the best way to spend their child’s educational dollars without additional expenditure from the state. The money is simply diverted from the public school system to virtual wallets controlled by parents and legal guardians.

How Does the ESA Program Work?

Due to legal challenges, ESA was transformed from a voucher program to an account-based program. Instead of giving scholarships for private school education, the state funds virtual wallets for each student awarded a scholarship. Parents and guardians decide whether the money is spent on private school tuition, tutoring, school uniforms, or other educational materials.

Once a child is awarded a scholarship, parents can log into the student’s ClassWallet account through the ESA Applicant Portal. Once funding is released, parents can choose how to use the money to best meet the needs of each child. The annual scholarships are split into equal payments and distributed every three months over the course of the academic year.

What is covered?

ESA spending options include the following:

  • Tutoring and online services listed in the ClassWallet Marketplace – Gemm Learning is a listed vendor in the Class Wallet Marketplace
  • Pay private schools and other vendors directly from ClassWallet
  • Submit a receipt from a qualifying school or vendor to receive reimbursement
  • Use the ClassWallet prepaid debit card to make qualifying purchases

How Much is the ESA Scholarship in Arizona?

Here is a quick rundown of current scholarship amounts for students without special needs:

  • $4,000 for incoming kindergarteners
  • $6,000 to $6,500 for students in 1st through 12th grade

Students with an existing 504 plan, MET, or IEP may receive higher reward amounts.

Who is Eligible for Arizona ESA?

Arizona Empowerment Scholarships are available to students living in the state who are either currently enrolled in a private school or are willing to switch to a private school. In most cases, students aren’t permitted to remain at their public schools and receive ESA funding. Students with disabilities or special needs may receive additional funding.

How to Apply for Arizona Empowerment Scholarships

You can apply for an Arizona Empowerment Scholarship by establishing an account through the Department of Education online. If you have multiple children, you only need to register one time to apply for all of your children.

 Gemm Learning and Class Wallet

Gemm Learning provides services to students paying through Class Wallet. In most cases, the funds available in the scholarship fully cover the cost of the Gemm Learning program.

Gemm Learning uses Fast ForWord software at home to build essential language processing and pre-reading skills, and then reading comprehension.

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