When my children first had evaluations for learning disabilities, we received services through our local school district for speech. I didn’t know, at the time, since they were kindergarten age, they qualified for an Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program. The ESA program allows parents to take a portion of the funds the public school normally receives for that child to use for tutors, qualified therapists, curriculum, and much more. It wasn’t until two years later, and a dyslexia diagnosis, that I began to understand we could use ESA to help with remediation therapy, which the school did not provide. This post will share more about what an ESA is and (since the next deadline is approaching on May 15th) how qualified families can apply.
The Empowerment Scholarship Account program, commonly referred to as ESA, began in Arizona in 2011. The ESA program is administered by the Arizona Department of Education and provides educational options for qualified Arizona students. According to ADE, parents who choose an ESA for their child are accessing alternatives for their education, such as private school or a home-based educational model. This allows families to utilize tutors and therapists in order to meet the unique educational needs of their child.
There are several qualifying categories for the Scholarship:
- Preschool student with a disability
- K-12 student with a disability
- Student with a parent who is active duty military
- Student with a parent who was killed in the line of duty
- Student with a parent who is legally deaf, blind, or hard of hearing
- Student who attends a D or F rated school
- Student who resides on a Native American Reservation
- Student who is a sibling of a current or previous recipient
- Student who was a ward of the court
- Student who was a previous ESA recipient
The scholarship is based on 90% of the funding that a school would normally receive, so students with more severe disabilities receive more funding. The base scholarship award amount is around $5600 per year until the child is 18. The funds can be used to pay for private school or home education with tutors, therapists, and curriculum costs. Students must apply in Kindergarten (under age 6), or they must be switching out of a public school (district or charter) and have completed the first 100 days (or online hours for online schools) before applying for ESA.
For more information, visit Love Your School to learn more!