On Thursday, July 7th, 2022 Governor Ducey signed the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) expansion bill (H.B. 2853) that Arizona state legislation passed on June 24, 2022. We have had many families reach out to us here at Colearn to ask what exactly this bill means, can they utilize ESA now, how does this affect Colearn Academy Arizona charter school, and other relevant questions. I would like to take a moment to share some highlights with you and point you to the correct resources.
This bill allows everyone to apply and participate in ESA. Previously there were specific criteria to be met such as military family, student with an IEP, student attending a D or F rated school, and a few other qualifying categories.
ESA contracts award students (without an IEP) around $6500 per year. These funds are placed in a Savings Account through ClassWallet and students receive a quarter of the funds in July, October, January, and April. If you do not spend it all, it accrues each quarter and year until you leave the ESA program or leave the state of Arizona. These funds even can be used for up to four years after high school graduation.
Legally, you are not a homeschooler if you accept an ESA contract. This means you do not file an affidavit and you revoke it if you have previously. The protections of a homeschooler are the same for an ESA contract, at this time, in that you can use any curriculum you would like, including religious.
As an ESA student, you cannot utilize your local school district for resources they may offer to legal homeschoolers. Remember, your state per pupil funds are being given to you in the form of ESA. A homeschooler is not utilizing any state funds and therefore they have the option to use their local district for services that may be offered to them as a homeschooler such as sports.
You CAN SEVER the contract at any time. You lose any savings that have accrued and you lose access to the funds immediately.
The bill is not effective yet. In the state of Arizona, new legislation goes into effect after 90 days. During this time, those who may oppose have the opportunity to submit a referendum. The group Save Our Schools AZ has already begun their campaign to do such. The referendum process in Arizona is that you must obtain 5% signatures of the amount of people who voted in the last gubernatorial election. According to SOS, this is 118,823 valid signatures. If they succeed by September 24, 2022 in collecting those signatures, the law will be placed on hold until the November 2024 election when AZ voters will have the opportunity to vote in favor or oppose the bill.
Questions You Many Have:
How does this new expansion affect my student if they are a current enrolled student at Colearn Academy Arizona? The expansion does not affect enrolled students at all. It does not affect how you spend your Enrichment Funds for your students or the Course Mentor Stipends you receive. You may continue with your enrollment at Colearn Academy and receive all the resources and benefits you love like full and supplemental free curriculum, personalized educational support including SPED services, high school and career counseling with transcript and graduation support. Plus, all the added enrichment that comes without cost to your family like live clubs, free field trips, parent professional classes and organized local community connections with other Academy families nearby! Learn more about our AZ Colearn Academy Charter! Talk with an Enrollment Specialist today... limited spaces remain for the 2022-2023 year.
If I wish to apply for ESA once the application is ready, can I do so if my student is enrolled in Colearn Academy Arizona? Yes! Applying for ESA does not affect your enrollment at Colearn Academy. As well, being a student at Colearn Academy does not affect your application. Once your application is accepted, you will receive an ESA contract. Before signing the contract, you will need to withdraw your student from Colearn Academy Arizona. We process withdraws immediately and will provide you with a withdraw form to let ESA know you are officially withdrawn. As well, the state's database is updated nightly. In order to be enrolled with ESA with an active contract, you cannot be enrolled in a public school or charter school.
If I withdraw my student from Colearn Academy Arizona in order to sign an ESA contract later, do I lose access to all my learner's resources and funds at Colearn Academy? Yes. Your student will no longer be a student at Colearn Academy. Therefore, you will no longer be able to access the Enrichment Funds or receive a Course Mentor Stipend. However, if you would like to continue using any of our resources or programs, we are an ESA ClassWallet Educational Vendor and have many affordable options that allow you to continue as a non-enrolled student at Colearn Academy!
As an ESA recipient, can my student enroll at Colearn? Yes, and we would love to be a resource for your student! You would just be enrolling as a private student instead. We have a lot of wonderful options for homeschoolers and ESA students to build their package at affordable prices to allow you the resources you need to educate your students and love from us!
May I use ESA funds to pay for Colearn Academy resources? Most definitely! We are a ClassWallet vendor, meaning that you would submit your invoice from us to ClassWallet and they would pay us directly. No need to pay out-of-pocket and submit for reimbursement. Meet with a Home Education Specialist today to build out services that are customized for your family's needs.
What resources do you offer for private paying students? Any resources we have! There are many programs we have subscriptions to that are unavailable to those not at a school, meaning as a homeschooler or individual you cannot purchase these programs. As well, many programs cost individuals a lot more where as a school, we get better rates. Colearn will help bundle these resources and share the savings with you! Remember that our goal at Colearn is to support all students. Meet with a Home Education Specialist to learn what privates services we offer.
The Arizona Department of Education released this memo to share about current updates on applying for ESA under the new law. You can also follow the ESA website for updates as they become available. Finally, I encourage you to read over the ESA Handbook as it has a lot information about all the ways you are able to utilize the funds currently. Please note the 2022-2023 handbook is based on current law not the new law that potentially will take effect 9/24/2022 if the referendum is not completed.
Here at Colearn, we trust parents and want to give them the tools they need to serve their children. We will support and provide resources to students that are enrolled at Colearn Academy as a charter students, ESA students, homeschool students, or even if you just need extra resources to support your students at home even if they attend another school.
Amber Robinson, Colearn Academy Arizona Executive Director