Arizona Legislature Advances Bill to Improve State’s ESA Program

Today the Arizona House of Representatives and the Arizona State Senate passed SB1224, which drastically improves the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program. More than one year after Navajo parents battled the Arizona Department of Education for educational opportunities, this legislation brings a permanent resolution to those families who now will have one more school to choose from within their reservation community.

The bill also provides an outlet for ESA parents to appeal many issues that arise from the Arizona Department of Education. This is especially important in lieu of the recent major data breach of personal information, unjust changes of allowable ESA expenses, unlawful denials into the program, and excruciatingly long hold times to reach the ESA office. SB1224 shifts control of the ESA program from Superintendent Kathy Hoffman to the Arizona State Board of Education, allowing parents to have a public meeting platform to resolve future issues. The bill also funds a call center to ensure timely responses to parent’s questions and defines the type of information that can be released through public records requests.

Statement from Steve Smith, American Federation for Children Arizona State Director:

“On behalf of Arizona families, we want to thank the Legislature for passing SB1224.  This is one of the most important pieces of ESA legislation we’ve ever had in Arizona and now that it has passed the legislature, ESA parents can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel after an incredibly stressful year battling State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman and the ESA office. This bill is packed with crucial improvements that ESA parents desperately need. Every ESA child wins today, including those with special needs, foster, tribal and military children. We are also incredibly thankful to Governor Ducey for his compassion and intervention on behalf of the Navajo ESA families and for leading the way to improve the lives of all 8,000 plus ESA children.”

Governor Ducey has been outspoken in his support of the ESA program as well as a group of Navajo ESA families who were kicked out of the program and referred to the Attorney General’s office. SB1224 now goes to the Governor Ducey’s desk for his signature.