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"What Am I Supposed to Do?" Arizona Mom Loses Educational Lifeline for Her Special-Needs Daughter

June 10, 2020

Kayla Svedin was looking for an educational lifeline for her special needs daughter, and she found it in Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs)—a program that helps her ensure that her child gets the education she deserves. Thanks to her family’s ESA, Kayla was able to place her daughter in a school that gave her individual attention so she could learn—that is, until the state took it all away.

Because the state was so late in funding her family’s ESA, Kayla was forced to pay out of pocket to keep her daughter in her school and give her the personalized education she needs to succeed. If Kayla can’t be sure that ESA funds will be there to cover her daughter’s expenses, what’s a mom supposed to do?  The Goldwater Institute is stepping in to fight for Kayla and other families who benefit from ESAs and who are suffering from the state’s mismanagement of the program. You can watch more of their stories at

A Lifeline for Special Needs Kids in Arizona

Arizona’s ESA program has been a lifeline and a game-changer for thousands of 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. 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.

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. Learn more at



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