By Christine Accurso |
Parents want options for their children’s education. That is why so many went to the legislature and the governor and asked them to pass the Universal Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) Program for all of Arizona’s students!
The ESA program has been around for 11 years, but it’s only been available for a limited number of students who have qualified under particular classifications. As a mother of a child who has qualified under the category of special needs, I have seen our son thrive with his education for the last 9 years on an ESA. The tax dollars that we have been able to draw down are completely accountable to the state. After submitting all the documentation for every purchase and having it all approved by the Department of Education, we can then have access to the next quarter’s funds.
There is no better advocate for a child than their parents. Public district and public charter schools are not for everyone. We need options for students and parents who don’t thrive in these settings. For our son, the public district school failed us, and the public charter schools disappointed us. That is why we left the “public system” of education. Every child is uniquely different and has different needs. ESAs simply ensure that each child’s needs can be met without significant financial sacrifices from their families.
The latest controversy now seems to be between the parents and the teachers’ unions. But it is not an EITHER/OR for public schools and ESAs. It really is a BOTH/AND. We need strong public schools, and we also need options for our children who don’t fit into that cookie-cutter style of learning. Children may be doing very well in a public school now and that is great, but their needs may change. Or the school may change and then, an ESA may be needed in the future.
If you read House Bill 2853, you will see that there is a significant amount of money that is allocated to the public school system. They also retain all federal and local tax dollars. A student on an ESA only receives 90% of the state per pupil funding. According to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, a public school child will receive approximately $14,326 in the coming school year, but an ESA recipient will receive $6,966. This is a win-win-win for the student, the public schools, and the taxpayers!
But right now, a group called Save Our Schools is out on the streets attempting to get the people of Arizona to sign a petition that could stop families from having the freedom of school choice. They’re trying to spread the false narrative that the new ESA law only benefits rich parents who want to send their kids to private school. If that were the case, you would expect to see a low demand for these ESAs. And yet, the new ESAs have been so popular with parents across all backgrounds and political spectrums that it has overwhelmed the Arizona Department of Education’s website!
It’s time for the people of Arizona to see through the lies. Save Our Schools wants to defund and deprive Arizona kids from receiving an amazing education. But thankfully, hundreds of parents have joined the Decline to Sign Movement. These engaged parents have been peacefully countering the Save Our Schools petition gatherers before a voter signs it to make sure that they understand what they are signing.
I encourage every voter in Arizona to Decline to Sign any petition from Save Our Schools. When our lawmakers put our children first, that is always a WIN! And that’s exactly what Governor Ducey did when he signed the new ESA law, making Arizona the gold standard for school choice laws in the country. Let’s leave this new law the way it is so that parents have full control over their children’s education. Our state and our kids will be better off if we fund students rather than systems.
Christine Accurso is a wife, mother, and ESA parent leading the charge for the Decline to Sign Movement. You can find out more about this effort here.