Homeschooling in Arizona Has Not Changed

It is anticipated that Governor Ducey will sign into law the largest ESA expansion in the nation.

HB 2853, sponsored by House Majority Leader Ben Toma, R-Peoria, passed both the House and Senate and now awaits the governor’s signature, which is very likely. It would expand Arizona’s current ESA program to all schoolchildren in Arizona. This potential expansion of school choice in Arizona gives more parents the ability to have a greater impact on directing the education of their children.

What does this mean for homeschooling in Arizona? The short answer is that nothing would change.

There are six educational classifications in Arizona: public school, charter school, virtual charter school, private school, empowerment scholarship account (ESA), and homeschooling. Each classification has a legal definition within the Arizona Revised Statutes.

HB 2853 is directly related to one classification, the empowerment scholarship account. In order to understand the ESA expansion, we will also look at the homeschool classification.

According to ARS 15-802 (G)(2) homeschool is defined as “a nonpublic school conducted primarily by the parent, guardian or other person who has custody of the child or nonpublic instruction provided in the child’s home.” The parent is required to file an Affidavit of Intent to Homeschool for children ages 6 to 16. A homeschooling parent takes full responsibility for their child’s education, including the financial responsibility. There are no reporting or standardized testing requirements for homeschooled students and the parent does not need to be a certified teacher. The parent creates the high school transcript and issues a diploma to their child. If a parent wishes to exit the homeschool classification and choose one of the five other options, they inform their public school superintendent within 30 days that they are no longer homeschooling.

The empowerment scholarship account (ESA) was established in Arizona in 2011 as an account* funded by the state to expand educational opportunities for children with special needs as well as for other specific populations. Funds received through the ESA are used for approved therapies and education related expenses, including instruction that may be provided at home by the parent. ESA students are contract students with the state who do not file an Affidavit of Intent to Homeschool.

HB 2853 has expanded only the ESA option. Under this expansion, all school-aged children in Arizona (not just specific populations) would be eligible to apply for an ESA contract. This taxpayer-funded account* can be used by parents to pay for private school tuition, teaching at home, therapies, or a variety of other educational expenses, all of which must be approved by the Arizona Department of Education. The ESA contract between the parents and the Arizona Department of Education will continue to be reviewed and renewed annually.

ESA students are contract students with the state who do not file an Affidavit of Intent to Homeschool. Homeschool students who opt to apply for an ESA contract no longer fall under the homeschool classification and no longer need their Affidavit of Intent to Homeschool.

AFHE supports parents in choosing the education option that is best for each of their children. Additionally, it is critical to understand and maintain the clear distinction between homeschooling and other education options in our state in order to preserve the freedom parents currently enjoy in directing the education of their children. Homeschooling in Arizona is the maximum-freedom minimum-regulation education option. AFHE will continue to work to preserve the freedoms that homeschool families enjoy, as well as to monitor and lobby the Arizona legislature as we have for nearly 40 years.  The relationships that have been forged and the reputation AFHE has built have ensured that homeschool freedom has been maintained.

It is our privilege to serve -AFHE Board

*update made on 07/02/22  altering the word "voucher" to "an account" in order to reflect funding that is initially provided to a parent/guardian vs. an educational institution