The Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) Explained

The Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) Explained

If you’re a parent of a student with autism or other exceptionalities, you may be familiar with the term ESA (Education Savings Account.) This is government-authorized savings account which essentially works as a debit card which parents can use to pay for their student’s education. A portion of Arizona taxpayer dollars are allocated to ESA’s, helping parents of students with disabilities cover services approved by the state government, including private school tuition, fees and more.

In Arizona, this program is called the ESA, or the Empowerment Scholarship Account, which expands the opportunities for students with special needs or other circumstances to have more opportunities to get the education they need. Recently, in April of 2017, more funds were allocated to ESA.

According to, the following are some facts about the ESA:

  • America’s first education savings accounts program

  • 3,547 participating students (2016–17)

  • 22 percent of students eligible statewide

  • 134 participating schools (2014–15)

  • Average account value: $11,539 (2016–17 projected)

  • Value as a percentage of public school per-student spending: 153 percent

What you need to know

  • A majority of your student’s tuition can be covered by the ESA depending on eligibility requirements.

  • The key eligibility requirements include:

    • The child has been identified as having a disability

    • The student is required to have been enrolled in public school for at least 100 days of the prior school year

    • The student has received a scholarship from an STO under Lexie’s Law (read more about that here)

    • The student has attended a “D” or “F” letter-grade school or school district

    • The student is already an ESA recipient (in that case, there is no need to reapply)

    • Or, the child lives on an Indian Reservation

Read more about the ESA, eligibility requirements and more on