ESA Has Diverse Support

More Arizona Families Choose Education Options Programs

Families who use the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program to customize their children’s education are more politically, socially and economically diverse than ever. They’re scattered across Arizona in cities, towns, rural communities and reservations. They live in houses, mobile homes and apartments. Families include couples, single parents, foster parents, adoptive parents, guardians and active duty military. They represent varied races, cultures, belief systems and political affiliations. Many say the public school system in Arizona has failed their children. Others just want options. Despite their vast differences these families have something in common: putting students first. And they’re crossing political lines to ensure all children in Arizona have equal access to educational choice.

In the past, educational choice was seen as a Republican agenda. In 2022 educational freedom has strong bipartisan support as more Democrats, Independents and Republicans embrace the new standard.

For years state education rankings consistently placed Arizona among the least favorable states for K-12 education. Schoolaro’s January 12, 2022 report ranked Arizona’s public K-12 system worst in the nation at #50 and ranked the state #45 for student safety, #46 for student success, #49 for lowest graduation rate, #49 for lowest teacher salary and #50 for highest number of students per teacher.

Our neighborhood public school placed my oldest child in the severe Autism classroom for 2nd grade, despite his intellect and enrollment in their elementary honors program. That same rural school insisted that my other son did not qualify for Occupational Therapy services for 1st grade, despite his inability to write letters and numbers. My students needed other education options and in 2011 ESA was the answer.

I have used ESA for my children’s education since the program began in 2011 with successful results.

The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) creates the accounts, calculates student funding, closely monitors every ESA, tracks every expense and requires account holders to connect every purchase to an educational purpose with receipts, credentials and curriculum; while the Arizona Treasurer funds accounts and contracts with third-party financial vendors to process transactions, capture purchasing details and reconcile accounts to current balance.

Our ESA accounts are considered “complex spending” due to my children’s special education IEPs. We use ESA funds for approved special education therapies, paraprofessionals, credentialed tutors, curriculum, supplemental materials, online learning programs, audio books, adaptive equipment, visual aids and other eligible purchases.

Now, with the 2022 universal ESA expansion all K-12 students in Arizona have a path to greater educational choice. Former Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, says “Arizona is now the gold standard for educational freedom.”

I agree. With ESA my children’s education ranks best in the nation, and has since 2011.

Tonya Reiner
Director, Journey With Me LLC
October 28, 2022

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