April 21, 2017 Print

It’s difficult for many parents to pay for alternative educational options for their children when their tax dollars are earmarked for failing public schools. Arizona is changing that with its new Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program, through which the state deposits a child’s share of school funding into an account that can be used for other schooling arrangements. Another new Arizona law protects the right for people to earn a living by placing strict requirements for occupational licensure to be used only in cases of public health, safety, or welfare. These laws are significant victories for freedom in Arizona.

The new ESA program, signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey, will help “more than 3,000 Arizona students excel in an academic setting that meets their needs,” reports Phoenix-based Atlas Network partner the Goldwater Institute in a press release. The program “is currently available to students with special needs, students in failing schools, low income students, students adopted from state foster care, students on Native American reservations, and students with active duty military parents.” The law will phase in eligibility for additional students over time.

“Arizona lawmakers made history today,” said Victor Riches, the Goldwater Institute’s president and chief operating officer. “Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts give families unprecedented options and flexibility for selecting learning environments that fit the unique needs of their children. Because Arizona courts have already determined this program is legal, it will be the first program of its kind to be available to all children in a state.”

Gov. Ducey also signed the Right to Earn a Living Act, which restricts the power of regulatory agencies to prevent people from operating businesses unless a pressing public safety or health concern can be demonstrated. The law also prevents courts from deferring to the authority of regulators, and requires that the agencies demonstrate a specific public safety or health problem in order to restrict entry into a profession.

“A hallmark of American freedom is the right to pursue one’s chosen profession and provide for oneself and one’s family,” said Jon Riches, director of national litigation and general counsel for the Goldwater Institute, in a press release that notes Riches helped draft the model upon which Arizona’s new law is based. “This is particularly true today — where new technologies make entrepreneurship easier than ever. SB 1437 restores the proper balance between free enterprise and legitimate government regulation, ensuring that economic opportunity for all is not merely a promise, but a reality.”