by Tim Carter, Yavapai County School Superintendent
Arizonans are blessed with a school choice system that is second to none in the United States. The Arizona Legislature has created attendance opportunities for parents and students that other states can only dream about. Parents, especially those in more highly populated areas like Prescott, have significant options for the education of their children.
Yavapai County alone has 26 school districts, including at least one of each type of school district allowed by law – unified districts (serving Pre K-12), elementary districts (Pre-K-8), union high school districts (9-12), joint technical education districts (career and technical education), transporting districts (serving students in remote and isolated areas), accommodation school districts (providing options for students to complete their education) and community college districts (offering certificates, associate arts degrees, and articulated transfer to universities). Districts are supported by both the state general fund and local property taxes, and are governed by an elected governing board.
Arizona has been a leader in establishing and maintaining charter schools, which offer a variety of course offerings based on the individual school charter. Yavapai County currently has 24 charter schools, operating predominantly in Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley, Camp Verde, Sedona and Cottonwood. Charter schools, like school districts are “public schools,” yet funded by the state general fund, and governed by the charter operator or board in conjunction with the State Charter Board.
Open enrollment has been in place for decades in Arizona. This allows parents and students to move to any school they wish to attend, without adhering to district boundaries, as long as the school to which the student is transferring is not at capacity. Parents must provide their own transportation in this situation, but many districts will also provide that option upon a reasonable request.
Arizona also has statutory provisions that allow homeschooling, where parents may educate their own children in their own homes. Homeschool networks, where parents and others work collectively to educate their children, are also popular. Homeschooling rules in Arizona are some of the least restrictive in the nation.
Private schools are also alive and well. In general, these schools operate outside of the authority of the state. The Arizona Legislature began a system of “empowerment scholarship accounts” several years ago, which continues to expand. In the most recent session, the legislature included a controversial provision allowing the funding of private schools.
The Arizona Constitution, Article 11, also creates the office of an elected county school superintendent, who works with local authorities to provide the best possible education options for Arizona children. That is accomplished by operation of county education service agencies. For more information about Prescott schools and those throughout Yavapai County, go to the Yavapai County Education Service Agency webpage at YCESA.com.