“What are the schools like?” is one of the top questions I get from buyers with school-age children. It’s a pressing and valid concern because every parent, regardless of their socio-economic status, wants their child to get a good education. In the past, the neighborhood school was their primary option, even if the school had a D or F rating.
That started to change in 1997 when Arizona passed the first school choice legislation. School Choice is a program that allows public funds to “follow students to the schools or services that best fit their needs” (www.edchoice.org). For the last 25 years, that has taken the form of the tuition tax credit program, which allows individuals, married couples, and businesses to direct a portion of their tax liability toward private education. Governor Ducey expanded that to include the Universal Empowerment Scholarship program, which allows state funding to follow the child to the educational environment their parents determine is best.
Why does this matter for real estate? It matters in three ways. First, families are no longer limited by their income regarding education. Even if they are economically challenged and live in a failing school district, thanks to the Empowerment Scholarship, parents now can send their child to a school where the academics and environment are in line with their dreams and goals for their child. That could be transformational for a family, and a neighborhood!
Secondly, School Choice provides equal access to high-quality education for ALL Arizonans and paves the way for urban revitalization. When investors start renovating homes in a neighborhood suffering from decline, it can take 10-15 years for a neighborhood to experience revitalization, and it requires families and individuals who will buy homes in the area and invest their time and money into the community. When education is no longer a barrier, families are more willing to purchase homes in areas of partial revitalization, because they know their children will have access to good education. I experienced this personally. Several years ago, my family and I moved into an area of partial revitalization because of the affordable home prices. The school district was not performing well at the time, but that did not impede our decision to purchase a home in the area. Thanks to the tuition tax credit program, we were able to send our children to a school that aligned with our educational and personal values.
Not only does School Choice improve equal educational access and expedite revitalization, but it also creates an atmosphere of educational ingenuity that is paying dividends for Arizona. Our state has become a magnet for high-tech industries in the last 10 years because of our innovative educational landscape. Our world-class universities are supported by our vibrant K-12 educational environment, which ensures that every child, from every neighborhood, has the right and the ability to receive a world-class education, Arizona education is on an upward trend, and we need to keep it that way.
On Friday, January 12, Governor Hobbs released her proposed budget, which strives to abolish the 25-year-old tuition tax credit program and severely limit access to the Empowerment Scholarship. If this happens, Arizona families' educational access will once again be limited by their income and the neighborhood where they live and Arizona's reputation as a place of innovation and development will be at risk.
Call, email, or text your legislator today and ask them to protect School Choice and OPPOSE Governor Hobb’s proposal. You can find your senator's contact info here. Every child in every neighborhood deserves a great education!