Tribal families have the opportunity, now through April 1, to apply for state-funded K-12 scholarships. In 2015, the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program was expanded, making Native American children living within the boundaries of a reservation community eligible for the program. ESAs can be used to pay for education expenses like private school tuition, online curriculum, tutoring and books. A portion of the funds can also be saved for college. The program gives Native American parents the option and funding to choose the best education for their child within their own communities.
“Because of the ESA program, children have been moved by their parents from low-performing neighborhood schools to quality private schools such as St. Michael School and Holbrook Indian School,” said Sen. Carlyle Begay, R-LD7. “It’s amazing to see how these families are finding their own way, the way that is best for their family and their child when it comes to K-12 education.”
Sen. Begay championed the expansion of the ESA program to Arizona’s reservation communities to help address disparities in tribal education. Native American students have the highest dropout rate in the state and are last across all education matrices, including math and reading proficiency.
“Education on tribal lands is in crisis and has been for many, many years,” added Sen. Begay. “We cannot wait any longer to address this critical issue. We have to find solutions that work for tribal families and empower parents and children to learn on their terms.”
The state-funded ESA program allows parents to use 90% of the funds that would normally go to their child’s public school. The parent gets a private bank account with the funds and a debit card. They can swipe their debit card to pay for the education curriculum of their choice including private school tuition.
Any child living within the boundaries of an Arizona reservation community is eligible for an ESA. They have to be currently attending a public school and will need to fill out the attached application. For more information or to apply online, parents and schools can visit the Arizona Department of Education ESA website at www.azed.gov/esa
The deadline to apply for the 2016-2017 school year is April 1.