HELP US Protect Educational Opportunities for ARIZONA Students
THERE'S A THREAT COMING TO ARIZONA STUDENTS...
The political organization Save Our Schools Arizona (SOS) is currently collecting signatures for a ballot initiative they seek to place on the November ballot. They are calling it the SOSAct. This initiative directly attacks the Empowerment Scholarship Account program, seeking to place a permanent 1% cap on the program, which in a very short amount of time will effectively push out all qualifying students that are not qualified through the “Students with Disabilities” (special needs) category. Then it would subsequently result in the remaining special needs students to be measured against each other to determine which students exhibits greater need, thus pushing more students out of the program.
WHAT WOULD THIS MEAN TO STUDENTS BOTH IN AND OUT OF THE ESA PROGRAM?
If a 1% cap were in place right now (there is currently no cap), it would be just under 11,000 students. Right now, in the public school system, there are about 132,000 special needs children, approximately 12% of all publicly enrolled students. The SOSAct would forever eliminate the option of an ESA for 92% of special needs students once the 1% cap was filled, leaving 120k special needs students with limited options for their education. This certainly doesn’t “prioritize” special needs students. Not to mention the thousands of current ESA students that would begin to be pushed out of the program if the initiative passes, as more new special needs qualified students apply.
DON'T BE PLAYED FOR A FOOL, FOLLOW THE FACTS!
This initiative and all arguments SOS uses against the ESA program are predicated on lies and rhetoric meant specifically to incite anger and division among parents. SOS intentionally uses the incorrect term “vouchers” to describe the program. They claim ESA parents can transfer student funds into their private bank accounts (something not only prohibited, but impossible). They claim ESAs steal money from public schools, which has shown to be untrue many times (funds are tied to students, and federal and local funds remain in the schools, even when a student leaves with an ESA). They continue to repeat twisted statistics, claiming that $700k in mostly outside fraud (from an outdated report) was misspending by families; the most recent Auditor General's report shows that real misspending is actually less than 0.001%. They want the public to think that these families are bad actors, shysters looking to financially profit, rather than parents of mostly special needs children who have exhausted all other options in search for success and stability in their children's educational lives.
LET'S CLEAR THINGS UP
The truth is simple and straightforward. ESAs are funded using 90% of the state portion of per-pupil funding. ESAs receive 0% of the federal and local funding. For a child without special needs, the median per pupil ESA award is $6,166 compared to $9,929 at Arizona’s district schools. Students with special needs can receive additional funding, but still receive only 90% of the state portion of per-pupil funding. No ESA award affects any other per-pupil funding allotment for any other child.
ESA IS FOR THE CHILDREN
Currently, about 60% of ESAs belong to students with special needs. Other eligible students include foster kids, the children of active-duty military personnel or those killed in the line of duty, Native Americans living on a reservation, and students assigned to a D- or F-rated district school, children of parents that are blind or hard of hearing, as well siblings of otherwise eligible students. Each of these student populations benefit greatly from being able to direct individual student funding to educational options that meet their unique needs and situations.
PRIORITY? THEY DON'T UNDERSTAND THE WORD
SOS is disingenuous when they argue that the ESA does not currently prioritize students with special needs. No priority is necessary under current law because every eligible applicant receives an ESA. A priority system would only be necessary if a cap were imposed, which SOS seeks to do. The SOSAct would limit the number of ESAs available to only 1% of district school enrollment. That’s about 11,000 students and currently there are about 8,000 ESAs. Given the current rate of growth, the new ESA cap would be hit within two years. If that cap was implemented, 92% of special education students would be prohibited from ever accessing the option of an ESA. SOS is trying to rip educational options away from families of students with special needs while pretending to do them a favor!