Earlier this week, ESA Director Karla Escobar sent the following update regarding the work of the ESA Task Force to parents utilizing an Empowerment Scholarship Account for their children.
Dear ESA Parents,
Last month, I was honored to accept Superintendent Kathy Hoffman’s offer to serve as ESA Director, a role I held previously. One of the first tasks Superintendent Hoffman charged me with was working with an ESA Task Force made up of representatives from the Governor’s office, the Treasurer’s office, Save our Schools Arizona, the American Federation for Children, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, as well as ESA parents.
The task force was charged with the following:
Within the confines of existing state statute, assist the Arizona Department of Education in ensuring that: 1) The program efficiently serves parents whose children are eligible for an ESA and who choose to use this program as a means to provide them a quality education. 2) The program is fiscally efficient, transparent, and accountable.
To fulfill this charge, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) has asked for bids for a new third-party financial vendor to better help manage transactions and simplify the process for parents and families.
It is expected that a vendor will be selected by mid-June. After that, there will be a transition period from the current system to the new system, with many opportunities for training and education. We pledge to work diligently to ensure parents are knowledgeable about the new process.
The new third-party vendor will deal only with financial transactions, and ADE’s role managing the daily operations of the ESA program will not change. Additionally, protecting student data and information remains a top priority. The new vendor will be required to follow all federal and state laws protecting student data and ADE will still manage eligibility screenings.
We are confident this direction will provide ESA parents with greater consistency and clarity concerning allowable program expenses. We will continue to communicate with you regularly about next steps in the coming months. We are also actively exploring ways for ESA parents to give feedback as we move forward, including setting up a working group made up of parents to help inform the work of the task force. Our number one priority is ensuring the ESA program effectively and efficiently serves the students and parents who rely on it.
Arizona Department of Education