Nearly Half of Universal Voucher Applicants from Wealthier Communities as Total State Private School Subsidies Reaches $600 Million

November 6, 2022

Key Findings:

  • 45% of universal Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) applicants come from the wealthiest quarter of students in the state. Their families live in zip codes where the median household income is $80,000 or more, more than 30% greater than the state’s median income. 
  • 32% of universal ESA applicants are from families with a median income lessK than $60,000, which comprise just over half the students in the state.
  • 80% of universal ESA applicants are not in public school, meaning these students are already attending private schools, being home schooled, or just entering schooling. At a cost of about $7,000 per voucher this equates to potential new cost to the state of $177 million.  
  • Arizona will spend more than $600 million on private school subsidies—universal ESAs and Student Tuition Organization Scholarships—in the 2022-23 school year. 
  • Only 3.5% of all applicants came from zip codes that had a high school or 2 K-8 district schools with a D or F grade. No zip codes with a median income above $80,000 had a high school or 2 K-8 schools receiving a D or F grade. 
  • An increased risk of fraud from lax oversight to ensure that families don’t double dip by using both ESA and STO scholarship funds.

Universal ESA Applications by Zip Code's Median Household IncomeArizona K-12 Students by Zip Code's Median Household Income

Portion of Applicants by School Rating and Zip Code
STO Scholarships Plus ESAs Exceed Private School Students (2019-2020)

For more information, contact: Dave Wells, Research Director, Grand Canyon Institute, at or at (602) 595-1025, Ext. 2. 

The Grand Canyon Institute (GCI) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to informing and improving public policy in Arizona through evidence-based, independent, objective, nonpartisan research. GCI makes a good faith effort to ensure that findings are reliable, accurate, and based on reputable sources. While publications reflect the view of the Institute, they may not reflect the view of individual members of the Board