PROGRAM — Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program

My son Joshua, who is 18 years old, has been using the scholarship program the last three years to attend a private high school. My son Daniel, who is 13 years old and in 7th grade, has used ESA for about a year now to attend a private school with special needs support. He is a foster adopt child. My daughter, Keziah, is also receiving ESA funding and she is a homeschool student. She is 15 years old. We have five kids total and four of them are adopted. 

My husband and I lived in Casa Grande for eight years and he is a pastor. Then we moved to Texas and we realized, as our children with special needs were getting into their teenage years, that we needed to think long-term. We knew that we needed to be able to provide for our children with special needs into adulthood, especially our youngest who will probably never be able to be on his own and fully independent because of his special needs. As we were looking at our options in Texas, and elsewhere in the country, knowing we needed to provide for our kids’ needs, we got pulled back to Arizona. We decided to relocate and take advantage of some of the programs that Arizona offers, and school choice was one of the reasons that brought us back.

Parents should have school choice. I think that what we see happening in our country right now is that parents are recognizing that they want and deserve to have more say in the decisions that are being made for their children, including their education. I think there’s a rapidly growing culture of homeschooling and looking at other education opportunities for students because we are recognizing how each child learns very differently, and so one setting may not be the best setting for all children even within the same family. Being able to have some choices within education is really an amazing thing.

“We decided to relocate and take advantage of some of the programs that Arizona offers, and school choice was one of the reasons that brought us back.”

I have a unique perspective because not only am I a parent of special needs children, but I also worked for many years in public school education. I recognize the difficulties within the public sector when you have a lot of administration fees and overhead fees that the funding ends up going to. We as teachers want to be able to give all of our students exactly what they need and sometimes our hands are tied in a public setting for various reasons. In the private sector, there is less regulation so there is more availability for teachers and administration to be able to very specifically target the needs of individual students. That’s a draw for me as a parent and as an educator, because I see the importance of being able to individualize an education system or program that might not be 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for some students.

“We as teachers want to be able to give all of our students exactly what they need and sometimes our hands are tied in a public setting for various reasons.”

We are so grateful for school choice. We looked at all states in the U.S. for relocating and we came back to Arizona because of the school choice options that are available. We knew that it was important to provide the best education possible for our kids, and especially given the fact that they have special needs: autism, intellectual delay, visual impairment, cerebral palsy, the whole gamut. We knew that we needed medical and educational resources. School choice was a draw for us to be able to say, ‘this is a place that we can provide the best education and upbringing to give these kids the best start into their adulthood.’

We have also used the scholarship tax credit program. We have used it for our son Joshua who is attending a private high school. Without that program, his attendance at the high school would not have been possible. He is a child who needed that small, private, Christian school. The importance for him was to have adults in his life to mentor him and be able to be an influence on him in those teenage years when mom and dad lose out on some of the ranking. So for us the STO program was absolutely a benefit and made it possible for him to attend a private high school.

“I have worked in public education for most of my career. While the public sector is a great option for a lot of students, it is not always the best option.”

I have worked in public education for most of my career. While the public sector is a great option for a lot of students, it is not always the best option. When my husband and I were deciding for our children and their education, and our kids were in the early primary years of elementary. I remember our three middle kids and thinking how one of them should be in the public school to have exposure to all different kinds of kids and to recognize that his nationality was represented amongst the population. I remember thinking that our son Andrew needed to be homeschooled because of his anxiety and other disabilities that prevented him from excelling in the public school. Then, our youngest needed to be in a private school where she could get one-on-one attention. How can we do all of these different things for the variety of needs that are present in our children’s lives? School choice has made that a reality for us, to be able to do different things for different kids.

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