Arizona is widely viewed as the state with the most options for school choice. The following definitions and resources can help parents navigate Arizona’s marketplace for elementary, junior high or middle and high schools.
There are two general types of public schools: Charter schools and schools operated by districts. Charter schools and district schools are both tuition-free and regulated by the state Board of Education, but charter schools are privately operated and exempt from some regulations that districts are required to follow.
Charter school teachers are not required to be certified, although many are. Unlike school districts, charter schools function more like small businesses: If enrollment drops and business suffers, they could close. School districts and charter schools both have governing boards, but district boards are elected by the community and charter boards are appointed by the charter operator.
Charter schools also have sponsoring boards that monitor them and provide oversight. In Arizona, charter schools can be sponsored by the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools or by a school district. Most charter schools are sponsored by the state charter board.
The traditional neighborhood school remains the most popular type of public school in Arizona. School districts draw boundaries to determine which neighborhoods are served by each school. But under the state’s open-enrollment law, children can attend other schools within the district or in another district by applying to that school.
Many school districts offer different types of schools as alternatives to traditional neighborhood schools. For example, district options may include night school for teenagers who want to work during the day, back-to-basics elementary schools or schools that use the Montessori method of instruction.
School districts also offer vocational education programs such as automotive or culinary arts, or send students interested in vocational careers to the East Valley Institute of Technology in Mesa. EVIT offers high school students a wide range of career and technical programs, from health care and radio broadcasting to cosmetology and firefighting. Some students attend EVIT part time, taking academic courses in their home school district. Others are at EVIT all day, taking academic courses at the East Valley Academy, a school operated by the Mesa Unified School District next to the EVIT campus.
To learn more about schools in East Valley school districts, contact the district office in your community:
• Apache Junction Unified School District, Superintendent Barry Sutter, (480) 982-1110.
• Cave Creek Unified School District, Superintendent John Gordon, (480) 575-2000.
• Chandler Unified School District, Superintendent Camille Casteel, (480) 812-7000.
• East Valley Institute of Technology, Superintendent Sally Downey, (480) 461-4000.
• Fountain Hills Unified School District, Superintendent Marian Hermie, (480) 664-5000.
• Gilbert Unified School District, Superintendent Brad Barrett, (480) 497-3300
• Higley Unified School Distric, Superintendent Joyce Lutrey, (480) 279-7000.
• Kyrene Elementary School District, Superintendent Maria Menconi, (480) 783-4000.
• Mesa Unified School District, Superintendent Debra Duvall, (480) 472-0223
• Paradise Valley Unified School District, Superintendent John Kriekard, (602) 867- 5100.
• Queen Creek Unified School District, Superintendent James Murlless, (480) 987-5935
• Scottsdale Unified School District, Superintendent John Baracy, (480) 484-6100.
• Tempe Elementary School Distric, Interim Superintendent Debra Gomez, (480) 730-7195.
• Tempe Union High School District, Superintendent Shirley Miles, (480) 839-0292
Many charter schools serve niche populations, such as performing arts students or at-risk students, while others offer different types of curriculum and instruction than found in traditional district schools, such as a back-to-basics focus or block scheduling. Charter schools are often smaller than district schools, offering smaller class sizes and more individualized instruction.
Charter operators, which may be private companies or nonprofit groups, sign a contract, or charter, with the state to provide a free public education to any child.
To learn more and get a current list of charter schools in your area, contact Arizona Board for Charter Schools, (602) 364-3080.
PRIVATE AND PAROCHIAL SCHOOLS
Private and parochial schools have been expanding in the East Valley, especially since the state passed a tuition tax credit law that helps fund scholarships for students wanting to attend a private school. Families can receive a tax credit of up to $625 for donations to school tuition organizations, or STOs. Families can then apply for scholarships at the private school they want their child to attend or through an STO.
To learn more about tuition tax credits for private or parochial schools, contact:
• Arizona Adventist Scholarships, Scottsdale: (480) 991-6777
• Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization, Chandler: (480) 820-0403
• Arizona International Academy Scholarship Fund, Scottsdale: (480) 948-3419
• Arizona Private Education Scholarship Fund, Scottsdale: (480) 699-8911
• AZ Scholarship Fund, Mesa: (480) 497-4564
• Giving Kids the Credit, Scottsdale: (480) 664-8617
• AZ School Choice Trust, Phoenix: (602) 454-1360
• Brophy Community Foundation, Phoenix: (602) 264-5291
• Catholic Tuition Organization of the Diocese of Phoenix: (602) 744-6345
• Chaparral Mission Scholarship Fund, Scottsdale: (480) 991-9878
• Educare, Scottsdale: (602) 980-2680
• Montessori Centre School Tuition Organization, Mesa: (480) 926-8375
• New Way Learning Academy School Tuition Organization, Scottsdale: (480) 946-9112
• Tempe Montessori Parents Organizations: (480) 966-7606
Information about tuition tax credits and STOs.
Thousands of Maricopa County students learn at home. Parents who home-school their children can get guidelines and other assistance from the Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools or (602) 506-3144. AZ Families for Home Education also can help.
HELPFUL WEB SITES
Great Schools lists all public and private schools and achievement and demographic data for each school and provides tips to parents for choosing a school.
The Arizona State Board for Charter Schools is the largest sponsor of charter schools in Arizona.
Arizona Department of Education allows users to search for a public district school or charter school by city or ZIP code.
Local private, public schools, colleges and libraries, click on “Search for Schools, Colleges & Libraries” to search for public and private schools in your area