Since my last post, Governor Ducey has signed the ESA expansion bill (yesterday). It is groundbreaking — the whole country is talking about it.
- Everyone now can apply and participate in ESA
- But you don’t have to. You do not have to participate if you don’t want to. It doesn’t affect current homeschoolers at all.
- If you choose to participate you do give up your “legal status” as a homeschooler (you are not supposed to file the affidavit and if you already have you are supposed to revoke it. ESA is a contract with the government and for legal purposes considered its own form of schooling —see my last post for more understanding regarding this)
- The protections for ESA and legal homeschoolers, at this time, are the same. But given that they are two different categories, laws could be applied to one and not the other.
- Each ESA contract student will get around $6500-7000 per year. There is a long list of what the state will approve – as with any government money there are rules.
- It is a savings account – if you don’t spend a dime it will accrue and accrue and you can even use it for your children’s college, so long as it is in-state. Private Christian colleges are fine so long as they are accredited. High school dual-enrollment is a yes also.
- You can choose at any time to sever the contract and go back to being a legal homeschooler (I assume you’d lose all your savings if you’ve been saving up since the funds are tied to the contract—but I’m not sure)
- Applications open in early to mid-August
- The start date is September 24th
- Important: Don’t make any purchases you expect reimbursement for until you are enrolled in the program and it’s after 9/24.
The Department of Education Makes Its Official Announcement
ESA EXPANSION UPDATE
On June 24th, the Arizona State Legislature passed H.B. 2853, which expands the Empowerment Scholarship Account Program. On July 7th, the Governor signed the bill which has an anticipated effective date of September 24th.
Please continue to check our website for information and other important guidance. As a reminder, although the ESA application is open, we cannot yet accept applications for those qualifying under the expansion. In the meantime, both our website and the ESA Parent Handbook are great resources.
If you have any questions, our ESA Support Team is available Monday through Friday from 9am-4pm at 602-364-1969. You can also send us a message anytime through the HelpDesk.
ESA IMPLEMENTATION PLAN UPDATE
H.B. 2853 Implementation Plan
The ESA Program is currently working with the IT team to create a new application eligibility category of “Universal ESA”. We will advise parents as soon as this eligibility category is available, and we are hoping to have the application ready by early to mid-August.
- After a complete application is submitted under this new category, it will be placed “on hold” and the applicant will receive a communication alerting them that the application will be held until the legislation’s anticipated effective date of September 24, 2022.
- The 30-day period for the Department to act on the application will be paused when this communication is sent out until the legislation takes effect. Once the legislation takes effect, the Department will act on the application within the remaining 30 days.
- After the legislation takes effect, and once a signed ESA contract is received by the Department, ESA staff will work with both the Treasurer’s Office and ClassWallet to open and fund the account. Account set up and funding takes approximately 3 weeks.
Further, we will work with the Treasurer’s Office to establish a process to address the changes made relating to the withdrawal of students from a public school and will work with the Department’s Exceptional Student Services (ESS) leadership on an RFP process for securing approved 3rd party special education evaluations.
For purchase requests related to technology, transportation, and consumables that will become allowable once H.B. 2853 takes effect, ESA staff will send a communication advising parents to resubmit the request after the anticipated effective date of September 24, 2022.
- Additionally, the communication will caution parents about making purchases prior to the effective date.
- Until the legislation takes effect, the process for approving technology for a current ESA student with special needs will remain unchanged and as outlined in the ESA Parent Handbook, statute, and rules.
Finally, account notifications regarding suspensions will be modified from 10 days to 15 days, and the website will also be updated to reflect any additional changes related to H. B. 2853.
My Closing Thoughts
I think it’s a great law and I support it. I am and always have been in favor of freedom. I trust the moms. I trust parents that they know what is best for their children. The opposition has said over and over again that only licensed teachers, the “professionals”, know what is best for your child. And that is simply not true. God commands parents in the Bible to “train up their children in the way they should go.” This is our obligation, and it is between us and God. No one knows your child better than you. No one loves your child better than you.
You do know what is best. Never let anyone take that from you. It is God given and your senses and intuition is a gift from Him.
I have no fear of the free market. It is a great corrector. The opposition is trying at every argument they can grasp their hands on, “What if this incentivizes bad private school scammers to pop up and take money?!” Then parents will pull their children out! The same way you do when you go to a bad restaurant. You will take your money to the restaurant that treats you right. Parents who have options will do the same. The scammers won’t stick around. This is the free market. This is freedom. But I’m preaching to the choice, we all understand this already, that is why we homeschool.
What will I do? Being in favor of the law and supporting it doesn’t mean you have to enroll in the program. However, I am leaning towards taking the money. We still haven’t decided. I’m sure I’ll wait until the last minute and keep listening and learning from homeschoolers for enrolling and homeschools not enrolling and pray of course. I’ve always liked staying off the governments radar. But ESA would be very much the opposite, you’d be holding hands with them. However, the fact you could use it for in-state college, even private Christian education, is pretty incredible – ACU and GCU are our oldest children’s top choices. Whether or not we apply, Derek and I still fully support this law and the freedoms and doors that will open for so many AZ students.
If you’ve made it to the bottom of this post, thanks for taking the time! I hope it was helpful! If it was helpful, feel free to forward this post to your friends. Let’s get the word out about ESA!
If we haven’t met yet, I’m Pauline Abello and I run a classical co-op in Paradise Valley for homeschoolers (Excelsior) and this website. I also have fun free events that my team and I open to the greater Christian homeschool community. I have several email lists that you are welcome to join.
- Free homeschool PE
- Cardinals Nature and Culture Events (1-2 times a month, some are free, depends on the event)
- Free art classes (monthly)
- Newsletter—for updates about homeschooling