ESA’s new school choice law in Arizona is a win for everyone

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PParents want options for their children’s education. That’s why so many people have gone to the Arizona Legislature and Governor this year and asked them to expand the state’s Universal Empowerment Scholarship Account program so that it covers all Arizona students.

The ESA program has been in existence for 11 years, but it is only accessible to a limited number of qualified students in particular categories, such as those with special needs. As a mother of a child with special needs who has directly benefited from this program, I have seen our son thrive on his education over the past nine years, thanks to ESA from the State.

Some have raised concerns that ESAs could easily be abused. But the taxpayers’ money that we were able to draw on for our son’s education is entirely attributable to the state. Each year, we submit documentation for each purchase, which is then approved by the Ministry of Education. After state approval, we have access to funds for the next quarter.

What those who oppose school choice programs like AES really oppose is that they put parents back in control of their children’s education. There is no better defender for a child than their parents. Public district and charter schools are not for everyone. We need options for students and parents who do not thrive in these environments. For our son, the public district school let us down and the public charter schools let us down. This is why we left the “public system” of education. Each child is unique and has different needs. ESAs simply ensure that each child’s needs can be met without significant financial sacrifices on the part of their families.

Opponents of school choice, especially teachers‘ unions, also try to create the impression that families who choose alternative educational options for their children are destroying the public school system. But it’s not an either/or decision. It’s really both/and. We need strong public schools, and we also need options for our children who don’t fit into this cookie-cutter style of learning. Children may be doing very well in public school now, but their needs may change. Or the school may change, and then an ESA may be required in the future.

Furthermore, Arizona’s ESA program does not undermine funding for the public education system, as the teachers’ unions have argued. If you read this year’s bill, you will see that there is a significant amount of money allocated to the public school system. They also retain all federal and local taxes. A student on an ESA receives only 90% of state funding per student. According to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, a public school child will receive approximately $13,306 in the next school year, but an ESA recipient will receive $6,966. It’s a win-win for the student, the public schools and the taxpayers!

Right now, a group called Save Our Schools Arizona is on the streets trying to get Arizonans to sign a petition that could prevent families from having freedom of school choice. They are trying to spread the false narrative that the new ESA law only benefits wealthy parents who want to send their children to private school. If so, you would expect to see low demand for these AES exclusively among affluent residents. And yet, the new ESAs have been so popular with parents from all walks of life and from all parts of the political spectrum that applications for the program have overwhelmed the Arizona Department of Education website. In the first two weeks of the application going live, the department received 6,500 universal ESA applications.

The people of Arizona need to see through the lies being sold to them. Save Our Arizona Schools wants to deprive the children of Arizona of receiving an education that suits them best.

Fortunately, hundreds of parents are fighting back. These committed parents peacefully countered the Save Our Schools Arizona petition by ensuring voters understand what they are signing. I encourage all Arizona voters to refuse to sign any Save Our Schools Arizona petition. Our lawmakers knew what they were doing when they expanded the state’s ESA program—putting our children first and making Arizona the benchmark for school choice legislation in the nation. . Let’s leave this new law as is so that parents have full control over the education of their children. Our state and our children will be better off if we fund students instead of systems.

Christine Accurso is an ESA wife, mother and relative leading the charge of the Refuse to Sign movement. You can learn more about this effort at DeclineToSignArizona.com

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