The Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program was created by Arizona State Legislature to expand educational opportunities for special needs children. Since the program was created by the legislative process state law governs and houses its rules and regulations. See the links below to read the ESA state statutes.A.R.S. 15-2401 – This section of the ESA statute defines key terms referenced in the rest of the law as well as what constitutes a ‘qualified school’ and ‘qualified student.’ A.R.S. 15-2402 – 2402 states how a qualified parent may apply and also states appropriate uses of the scholarship funds. A.R.S. 15-2403 - Dictates administrative rules and oversight of the scholarship by the Arizona Department of Education & The Arizona State Treasurer’s Office. A.R.S. 15-2404- Sets forth the limits of control over non-public institutions by the department and other governmental agencies.
Since the ESA program serves special needs children there are many other laws that parents should be aware of. The program requires parents to take full responsibility for the education of their child and remove them from public school; this raises many questions that can be answered by looking at state law.
According to 15-2402(B)(2), if a parent accepts the ESA contract the public school no longer is obligated to “educate the qualified student.” But 15-2401 states that a ‘qualified student’ is a student ”identified by a school district as a child with a disability as defined in section 15-761.” This requires that only district determinations (Eligibility Determinations, IEPs, METs, 504 plans) may be submitted to the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) and no private determinations will be accepted (ISPs, doctors diagnoses etc.).
ADE requires ESA students to maintain a current eligibility determination; if your IEP expires you must make arrangements to update it with an ‘Eligibility Determination’ before the expiration date and submit that document to ESA staff. As stated in the previous paragraph, this determination must be obtained from your district school and not a private school or entity. To do this please see the guide below.AZ-TAS (Evaluation & Eligibility) Guide - A step by step guide to keeping your eligibility determination current. A.R.S. 15-766- Speaks to a child’s evaluations for placement in special education by a school district. Note: By accepting the ESA award and placing the child in a private or home school setting the district can no longer develop an IEP for that student. IEPs take months of evaluation, observation and resources that the school districts no longer have access to for ESA students. Some private schools have contracted with local districts to provide district IEPs.