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RESOLVED:Education Savings Accounts Restrictions

Note from GPS Board member Staci Burk:

Hi Harry,

I think you may have gotten this from a facebook post last week. I appreciate passing it on, but had commented an update that this was resolved. There was some confusion and misunderstanding at the Arizona Department of Education and they had posted the above on their website. They took down the information and everyone is clear now.

If the District has placed a student in a private school, that student is eligible for an empowerment account.

The District administration (Clyde and Dave) have been supportive of empowerment accounts for the disabled students. Especially students that have been placed in private schools as these placements are costly and if a parent can find a placement for their child within the empowerment account cap (or pay the difference themselves), it saves the taxpayers and is a win-win for all.

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Our State developed Education Savings Accounts as an option for parents of students with disabilites to place their children in private schools (using 90% of the base rate that the school district would get).

Well intentioned legislators made a requirement that the student must be ATTENDING a public or Charter school for the 1st 100 days of the school year. ADE has interpreted that language to mean that if the school District has placed the Student in a private school at the Districts (taxpayer) expense, that this means the Student is not technically ATTENDING a public school (even though the District still counts them in the head count and gets State money for the Student) and those kids are INELIGIBLE for an empowerment account.

This is crazy. The seriously disabled kids placed in private schools by the District are sometimes costing the most to the District (and thus the taxpayer). Special education private schools are often 30-40K a year. If the parent can place that child under an ESA for much less cost to the State in a private school of the parents choice (instead of the district), then why restrict their eligibility for an ESA just because the District is already sending that child to a 40K a year school?

Also, kids with visual impairments are often sent to the Arizona School for the Blind, down in Tucson. This is a residential boarding school. Sometimes a parent may not want to send their 5 year old child with a visual impairment (blind or low vision) to a boarding school away from home, yet if the District and IEP team decides that they can't serve that child, THE PARENT HAS NO CHOICE outside of homeschooling or paying for a private school themselves because the District can refuse to enroll the child saying their placement is the private school. Parents in these situations cannot turn to the ESA (empowerment accounts) because they are not ATTENDING a District school for the 1st 100 days of the year.

This restriction and disqualification of these kids is unacceptable. The language of this legislation needs changed. It is hurting these students, parents, Districts and taxpayers that are paying for a high priced District selected private school when the parents have a low cost alternative that would SAVE the State money.

Staci Burk - Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board member

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