National School Choice Week
Marking the kickoff of National School Choice Week, senior fellow at the American Federation for Children Corey DeAngelis joins "Fox & Friends Weekend" to discuss the National Education Association launching an anti-school choice campaign.
FIRST ON FOX: The Heritage Foundation is renewing its push for better educational opportunities in the United States with a mini-documentary celebrating school choice and the impact it has made on students.
The documentary, which was released in accordance with National School Choice Week, features comments from parents, educators and children about how school choice has had an effect on them and their communities in Arizona – one of the first states to champion school choice.
In 1997, Arizona became the first state to offer tax-credit scholarships, and in 2011 it became the first state to offer K–12 education savings accounts (ESAs).
Titled “Making the Grade,” the documentary profiles four faith-based schools in Arizona to see the difference that education choice policies make for the families they serve.
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National School Choice Week (Getty Images)
“Our mission is to partner with families in nurturing their children for academic and spiritual growth,” said Amanda Bennett, the co-founder of Arcadia Christian School. “We have 120 students in our school – preschoolers all the way through sixth grade.”
“The unique thing about our school is that we’re a hybrid model, which means that we’re a blend between homeschool and at-school learning,” Bennett added.
Alex Thompson, a parent and teacher who was featured in the video, said she has taught online and at a public school in the past but that her experience teaching at Arcadia Christian School has been a “night and day difference.”
“I think the biggest difference is I’m able to give my students the time and energy they need because I only have 15 kids,” Thompson said.
Bennett said she believes the use of ESAs has “enabled” her school to “exist this year and thrive.”
The difference school choice has made for Highlands Latin School was also shown in the video.
“ESA has made it possible for us to be in this school,” said one Highlands Latin parent.
The impact of school choice can also be seen at Pusch Ridge Christian School in Tucson.
“The mission of the school is to teach kids to become like Christ through a classical Christian education within a covenantal community – we just do it in Spanish,” said Jonathon Basurto, the principal at Pusch Ridge Christian School.
“We feel that the public school was lacking in educating the children nowadays, and we wanted something better for our daughter,” said Maria Gomez and Daniel Trujillo, whose daughter attends Pusch Ridge. “Our daughter has flourished here. She loves coming to school. When she’s on vacation she misses being here.”
The Torah Day School of Phoenix has also benefited from unfettered school choice options for parents in the Grand Canyon State.
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“Torah day school was founded in 2010. We started with seven kids. It was actually started in my house. Thanks to really the policies in Arizona, we’ve grown tremendously … we now have over 400 [students],” said Gaby Friedman, a founding board member for the school.
Lindsey Burke, the director of the Center for Education Policy at the Heritage Foundation, said the steps Arizona has taken in its mission to uphold the best educational standards for children could help other states who are looking to follow suit. (iStock)
“Most of the students who come to our school come from low-income families, so we have a lot of students who are able to receive the corporate tax credit scholarship from Arizona, and we also have children who are also receiving an ESA,” Friedman added. “We never wanted to turn a child away because their parents couldn’t pay anything. Thanks to the policies in Arizona, we have been able to maintain that open-door policy.”
Speaking to Fox News Digital about the mission to get school choice in every state, Lindsey Burke, the director of the Center for Education Policy at the Heritage Foundation, said the steps that Arizona has taken in its mission to uphold the best educational standards for children could help other states who are looking to follow suit.
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Arizona’s decision to “adopt education savings accounts,” Burke said, shows that it recognizes “parents are their children’s first and primary educators.”
Referring to ESAs as the “iPhone of school choice,” Burke said parents and students can use an ESA to “not only pay for private school tuition but to also hire a private tutor or purchase textbooks, buy curricula and roll over unused funds year to year.”
“This is an amazing way to provide families access to their child’s share of the money that would have been spent on them in the public school,” she said. “In Arizona, you get 90% of what would have been spent on your child in the public school. It literally goes on to a debit card that you control, and then you can pay for all of those things I just mentioned. It’s an incredible way to think about the public financing of education.”
Burke said ESAs, or some form of them, are now being used in a total of 14 states.
Arizona, according to Burke, kept regulations “appropriately light” and allowed for more opportunities to flow in the state.
Burke said education savings accounts, or some form of them, are now being used in a total of 14 states. (Getty/skynesher)
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Because of Arizona’s steadfast approach to giving students and parents in the state school choice options, the state ranks second behind Florida on the Heritage Foundation’s Education Freedom Report Card.
The report card, which features a ranking for each state, measures four categories – Education Choice, Teacher Freedom, Transparency, and Return on Investment – that encompass more than two dozen discrete factors.
Despite support for school choice from many different corners of America, some in Arizona, including the state’s Democrat Gov. Katie Hobbs, question the school voucher program’s value.
The voucher program – championed by Hobbs’ GOP predecessor, Gov. Doug Ducey – allows students to apply to use public money for private-school tuition and other education costs. It started in 2011 as a small program for disabled children but was repeatedly expanded over the next decade until all students became eligible in 2022. More than 73,000 students currently participate in the program. Critics say the expansion is a drain on the state’s coffers and is subsidizing private school tuition, but backers say the expansion lets parents choose the best school for their children.
Arizona Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs said she and her administration had seen a “steady stream of news coverage around unacceptable and sometimes downright outrageous use of taxpayer money” under the state’s school voucher program. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin/File)
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Earlier this month, Hobbs said that she and her administration had seen a “steady stream of news coverage around unacceptable and sometimes downright outrageous use of taxpayer money” under the voucher program – pointing to things like “water park admissions, ski passes, and luxury car-driving lessons.”
Hobbs has also proposed requiring Arizona students to attend public school for 100 days before becoming eligible for the voucher program. Doing away next year with school tuition organizations that funnel tax credits to students for private school tuition could be another money-saving measure to the tune of $185 million, Hobbs’ office estimated.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Kyle Morris covers politics for Fox News. Story tips can be sent to [email protected] and on Twitter: @RealKyleMorris.