Gov. Ducey signs Empowerment Scholarship Account law benefiting all Native American students on tribal lands

Approximately 50,000 Native American students are automatically eligible for the school choice program

PHOENIX (April 7, 2015) – The American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice, praises Gov. Doug Ducey for signing SB1332 into law today. Gov. Ducey’s signature officially expands the state’s innovative Empowerment Scholarship Account program offering unprecedented educational options to all students living on tribal lands, which includes 22 reservations in total.

“We are very thankful to Gov. Ducey and the bill sponsor, Sen. Carlyle Begay, for their commitment to addressing the long-standing education problems on the state’s reservations,” said Kevin Chavous, executive counsel for the American Federation for Children. “These children have been ignored long enough when it comes to providing them with quality educational options. Today Gov. Ducey did his part to right that wrong.”

According to the Arizona Department of Education, Native American students have the state’s lowest graduation rate at 61% making Native children less likely to graduate than any other ethnicity or group including students with special needs.

Arizona has the second largest Native American student population in the United States. Most of the 55,000 Native American students in Arizona, attend school on or near their reservation. The new law gives these families on tribal lands, mostly in rural areas, the opportunity to customize their children’s education. Parents can choose how to use their state-funded education accounts and can pay for options like private school tuition, online classes, homeschooling, or other education related expenses.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Carlyle Begay, D- Ganado, who has made education in his district, including the Navajo Nation and eight other Tribal communities, a top priority.

“My gratitude goes out to Gov. Ducey today for signing a bill that means so much to families living in my district and throughout all of Arizona’s tribal communities,” said Sen. Carlyle Begay, D-Ganado. “Native American parents went from having almost no options to having a mechanism to build their child’s education around their child’s learning needs. It is an exciting first step toward fixing education on tribal lands!”

With the new law, ESA eligibility now includes: students in D or F rated schools, students with special needs, students in adoptive care, students with an active-duty military parent, siblings of an ESA recipient, and students living within the boundaries of an Arizona reservation.

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Kevin P. Chavous is executive counsel and a founding board member for the American Federation for Children. He is a former member of the Council of the District of Columbia and a former chairman of D.C.’s Education Committee. Chavous was responsible for enacting numerous education reforms in D.C. Chavous is chair emeritus of the Democrats for Education Reform and a former chair of the Black Alliance for Educational Options.