Understanding ESA-A Simple Guide (Arizona Only)

    If you live in Arizona you may have heard of the ESA (Empowerment Scholarship Account) Program.  Prior to October 2022 it was only eligible for families who met specific criteria.  As of this month it is now open to all children in the state of Arizona whose parents wish to send their children to private schools.  This also includes parents who home educate (homeschool parents).  While the ESA also covers special needs, Military children and several other types of students, this post is only to discuss options for homeschool educators and parents. This article is intended for information purposes only.  It is in no way intended as an endorsement for or against this program, nor should it be taken as advise or council.  The information is to help you to decide whether or not this program is right for you and your family.  It is subject to change as the laws do.  This will give you a short, easy overview of the ESA Program to help you decide if it’s a good fit for your family What is an ESA? Per the https://www.azed.gov/esa website, the Arizona ESA Program provides public funding that can pay for a wide variety of educational expenses to families that wish to home educate or send their children to private school.  These funds can be used for the following expenses: private school tuition, educational therapies, home education, tutoring, STEM, curriculum and more. Who is Eligible? All children in the state of Arizona can be eligible for ESA Program funds. Who is Not Eligible? Your child cannot be enrolled in public school including district, charter and public online programs and be in Arizona’s ESA Program.  Note:  This does not include privately funded online programs. How Much Money Do I Qualify For? The average Arizona ESA funding is approximately $6000-$6500 per year.  This does depend on when you sign your contract.  This doesn’t include any additional funding you may qualify for if you have special circumstances. Can I Apply For Each Child I Have? Yes, each child is eligible for their own ESA funding.  You will need to apply for each one.  You will also need to make sure to keep track of spending for each individual child. Do I Qualify If My School is Online But Has a Private School Option? Some schools (ASU Prep Digital for Example) have the option to do a private school funded program.  Some of these schools will qualify for Arizona’s ESA funding.  However, you will want to contact the school directly to see if it is available to you, and also, what you need to do to qualify for it.  Each school will be different and not all will qualify. What is the Deadline to Apply? You may apply year round.  Just keep in mind your funding will be based on the quarter that your contract is signed.  The first quarter starts in July and not January.  So your amount funded will be determined by these dates. What Do I Need to Do Before I Sign My Contract? You must withdraw your child from any public school, district, charter or public online school before signing your contract.  This is to ensure the state is not funding your child twice.  You must also remove your Affidavit for Intent to Homeschool from the States Superindants’ Office. Is State Testing Required Annually? At this time no state testing is required. Are These Funds Taxable? Currently, Arizona ESA funds are not considered taxable income. How Do I Use ESA Funds? Currently there are several ways to use these funds.  You may purchase educational products throught the website directly.  Some vendors are pre-approved in the Class Wallet Platform.  If the vendor is pre approved you will pay them directly through the platform. Items may also be purchased by you and then reimbursed.  A debit card may be requested and used and then invoices need to be submitted.  Basically, it works similarly to an HSA card.  You will purchase and then submit a receipt for each purchase.  Debit cards are not automatically sent out.  You will need to email and request one. What Are My Requirements for Spending? The contract requires that at least some of the money be allocated to grammar, mathematics, social studies and science.  You must also submit an itemized receipt for each item you purchase.  Some items may require additional information or curriculum for approval.  If an item is not approved, you are required to reimburse the funds.  If you do not submit 20 receipts, your account may be terminated. Will I Be Forced to Use a Particular Curriculum? Under the current Arizona ESA guidelines, the curriculum used is chosen by you.  The only requirement is that you teach grammar, math, social studies and science.  The program is up to you.  You may also choose whether or not it is secular, neutral or Christian. If the Curriculum I Want Isn’t Covered, Can I Still Use It? Many curriculums are covered as long as you follow the purchasing guidelines.  If for some reason your curriculum is not covered, you can still choose to use it.  You will simply pay for that item out of your own resources. What is Allowed? The list of allowable items for the ESA Program is quite extensive.  The following is a list of possible allowable items in order to give you an idea of what the funds can be used for.  This is not a complete list: Tuition fees to private schools Tutoring Services Curriculum such as History, Math and Science.  This includes supplemental materials required for the curriculum. Fees for tests such as the ACT and SAT Classes and lessons for Art, Dance, Drama Driver’s Ed, Gymnastics, Martial Arts, Music, PE, Swimminng, Yoga, and foreign languages. Educational Materials-The options for this is much to long to list but includes, STEM, Legos, Microscopes, Books, Manipulatives, PE Equipment, Instruments, Home Ec items, Telescopes and Art Supplies. Update-The following items are being added with the updated bill:  Computers,

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