Arizona School Choice Rally brings hundreds of students to the state capitol

By Kim Martinez

Hundreds of students benefiting from Arizona’s many school choice programs joined together to celebrate National School Choice Week at a rally near the Capitol. Arizona boasts a wide variety of educational options including charter schools, education savings accounts, tuition tax credit programs and open enrollment.

Governor Doug Ducey was the keynote speaker at today’s rally and thanked the crowd for their support of school choice, calling the state of Arizona “the national model in advancing school choice in education.”

Today’s celebration also recognized Arizona state leaders who have helped countless children find the best school for their needs through educational choice opportunities.

St. Michael students 6th grade classSome of the children who benefit from school choice include a group of Native American students who live more than five hours away, but they all made the trek to the Capitol to show their appreciation. The students, representing St. Michael Indian School, live on the Navajo reservation and are new students this year at the high-performing private school thanks to a recent expansion to the Empowerment Scholarship Account program. In 2015, children living on tribal lands became automatically eligible to apply for the education savings account program. The program allowed many of the Native American kids to escape failing neighborhood schools and attend private schools like St. Michael Indian School.

“This year St. Michael got 127 new students because of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts and the Tuition Tax Credit program,” said Dot Teso, President of St. Michael Indian School during her speech to the crowd today. “One of those young men at the beginning of the year told me ‘I hate school, I don’t like school at all.’ I remember saying ‘well maybe you’ll like this school.’ Now this young man is in every activity, is smiling all the time and came up to me recently and said ‘I love school!’”

As National School Choice Week wraps up, the outreach continues in Arizona to help parents with eligible children apply for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. Parents using ESAs can use their state-funded accounts to pay for private school tuition, online curriculum, homeschool expenses, tutoring, education therapies and books. The application period is now until April 1. To find out more about the Empowerment Scholarship Account program go to azesa.org.

Hispanic families applying for ESAs this year