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Stand up for ESA Families!

Let’s make sure children get the education they deserve.

Imagine finally getting your child the education they deserve, and then helplessly watching the government take it all away. That’s exactly what happened for a group of parents in Arizona. These are their stories, and they need your support.

A Lifeline for Special Needs Kids in Arizona

Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program has been an educational lifesaver for many kids and their families. With it, parents have been able to get the educational services their special needs children so desperately need. But then the Arizona Department of Education began withholding funds from families, threatening to remove them from the program, and constantly changing its own rules. The Goldwater Institute sued the state to defend these parents’ rights in court.

Prisca’s Story

Thanks to ESAs, Prisca Walton believes that her special needs children can get the best education possible. However, using her family’s ESA to pay for the tools that help her kids learn hasn’t gone without challenges from the government.

Piper’s Story

Piper Searfoss’s days are filled with homeschooling and therapies for her kids. When she finds a teaching tool to help them, she’s had to wait for weeks to get the state to formally approve it, even when she’s already gotten a verbal okay. And that’s a big source of stress for her family.

Kayla’s Story

Because the state was so late in funding her family’s ESA, Kayla Svedin was forced to pay out of pocket to keep her daughter in the great school that gave her the individual attention she needed. If she can’t be sure that ESA funds will be there to cover her daughter’s expenses, what’s a mom supposed to do?

Chauncey’s Story

As a mom of special needs children, Chauncey Hallford understands that even a little deviation from a routine can set back her kids’ education. She just wants the state to provide clear rules to follow so her ESA expenses won’t be rejected and her kids can keep learning.

ESAs Are a Game-Changer for Thousands of Kids

ESAs have been a lifeline and a game-changer for thousands of Arizona kids who need educational support the most—special needs kids, children of military families, children on Native American reservations, and kids in failing and near-failing school districts. The program takes a portion of the funding that would have been spent on these children in public school and instead puts it in a private account for that child to support teaching tools, tutoring, tuition, and other education-related expenses. Today, nearly 7,000 families participate in this program, giving them a shot at a brighter future.

Poor Administration is Hurting This Beneficial Program 

While the ESA program benefits many Arizona kids, it’s threatened by mismanagement and arbitrary and confusing rules. Many of Arizona’s ESA parents have horror stories about dealing with the state Department of Education—having an educational expense approved one time and denied the next, or having to pull a child out of a class because the promised ESA funds weren’t provided in time.

Goldwater is Stepping in to Help ESA Families

The Goldwater Institute is proud to stand beside Arizona’s ESA families and fight for their ability to provide their kids with an education that matches their learning style, fits their pace, and gives them the best chance for success.

In January 2020, Goldwater filed a lawsuit against the Arizona Department of Education challenging its mishandling of the ESA program. Not even a month later, the program’s mismanagement came into even starker focus when a massive breach of privacy by the state Department of Education resulted in the release of private personal information relating to all of the families who participate in the state’s ESA program.

Unfortunately, it’s just the latest evidence that this helpful program is being bungled by the state’s educational bureaucracy. Arizona’s ESA families deserve better.

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