Q: Would the SOSAct “kick out” any students currently using ESAs?
A: Yes. The SOSAct caps ESA enrollment at “one percent of the total average daily membership for school districts,” which is a cap of about 11,000 students. Currently, about 8,000 students participate, up 30% from last year. At this rate, it will be full within two years. FACT: When the cap is hit, new special needs applicants will take priority and “kick out” existing ESA students in other categories, including foster kids, Native Americans, children of active-duty military personnel, children assigned to D- or F-rated district schools, or siblings of eligible ESA students. Additionally, new children with special needs will lose access to ESAs once the cap is reached.
Q: Would the SOSAct mean students have to change their school or tutors?
A: Yes. The SOSAct requires that all schools, tutoring, and teaching services receiving ESA funds be located within the state. FACT: ESA families who use online schools and remote learning will lose access to their preferred education delivery model. Additionally, families who lose their ESAs due to the SOSAct will have to find a new school or tutor if they cannot find other funding to continue, or be forced back into the options that did not work for their students before being in the program.
Q: Would the SOSAct limit therapies and options for special needs families?
A: Yes. SOSAct limits families’ ability to plan and save for the future, including the greater need for life skills classes, tutors, or therapies at different age milestones for their children. FACT: The SOSAct will drain ESA accounts to $0 on June 30th of every year and start over. ESA accounts are currently able to rollover in order to allow families to save for therapies, increasing tuition rates (ESA awards don’t increase over time), and for special needs students the ability to pay for paraprofessional and other educational aides while working through extended high school and career training. By eliminating rollover ability, the SOSAct would encourage spending on items and services that may not be necessary in the current year, to make sure students don’t lose the funds. Right now, with rollover, parents are encouraged to spend wisely and plan responsibly for their students’ future.
Q: Would the SOSAct mean students currently eligible could no longer get access to ESAs?
A: Yes. Under current law, all eligible applicants receive an ESA. Under the SOSAct, eligible families would only receive an ESA if the cap has not been reached. FACT: Current ESA students will lose their ESAs as scholarships are redistributed to new students of higher priority under the SOSAct.
Q: Doesn’t the ESA program help poor children get out of bad situations?
A: Yes. A recent study found that economically disadvantaged communities use ESAs at higher rates than wealthier communities. FACT: Eight of the ten Arizona school districts with the highest concentrations of ESA students have child poverty rates well above the state average. The average ESA award covers the median private elementary school tuition. The SOSAct would directly disenfranchise low-income students as well as those with disabilities and special needs.
Q: Doesn’t the cap hurt students with disabilities who may need this program?
A: Yes. Although the SOSAct claims to prioritize to students with special needs, once the program is full of these recipients, additional students with special needs will not be able to apply because of the severely restrictive cap. SOS’s argument that the program doesn’t currently prioritize students with special needs is disingenuous. FACT: Under current law, every eligible applicant receives an ESA because there is no cap. The SOSAct would severely limit the number of ESAs available to students with special needs.
Q: Is the SOSAct needed?
A: No, it’s not! This initiative:
Attacks marginalized kids- disadvantages foster, military, and low income families by tearing a scholarship away from students who currently need them
Steals educational freedom – blocks future innovation for kids and drastically limits educational options for families, including those with special needs
Destroys future opportunities for AZ students- keeps the neediest and most vulnerable families from accessing the education they need once the cap is hit.