STories of Success
Prop 305 is for everyone. It's for students, for families, for teachers and for communities. That's why Arizonans are voting Yes on Prop 305. Read their thoughts and stories and find out why they believe Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) must be made open to all.
As shared by her dad
As parents of an autistic child, we witness firsthand the “spectrum” nature of the developmental disorder – no two are alike. Some even overcome the diagnosis to lead normal lives. Our daughter, however, will not be one of them. As heartbreaking as it is to admit, the best option for her education is to focus on developing valuable life skills to get her ready for the “real world” as best we can. Choosing the right school for her – and the different way she learns – is the key to achieving this goal. The ESA gives us the financial flexibility to place her in the best school to address her specific needs. Shortly after she was diagnosed, we began Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) as the main driver of her therapy. As the only behavioral intervention for autism supported by empirical evidence to be effective, it was a natural choice; however, upon entering the public school system we soon found out, at least in practice, they did not feel the same way.
With the ESA, we receive the funds earmarked for her public school education. This gives us the power of the purse to shop in the marketplace for a private ABA-centric school more in line with her needs as we understand them to be. The discretion to educate our child – is ours. The innovative school she currently attends teaches skills under the ABA umbrella in a real-world situation with a kitchen, living room, backyard and other elements consistent with the already familiar domestic look and feel of her current home, in addition to the home she will spend her adult life. She is doing quite well in this environment.
Jeff, Phoenix, AZ
As told by her mother
Please support Prop 305! When my daughter was 3 she received a diagnosis that qualified her for Special Education services from the public school. We worked with wonderful teachers at her public school, however she kept falling behind. Determining that there had to be a better way to meet her educational needs, I relied upon my instincts and accepted an Empowerment Scholarship Account to provide an education for her independent of the public school. We were so impressed we eventually decided to try the ESA program for all three of our children. Her siblings have benefitted just as much as she has. The changes that the ESA has brought about in each of our children, and subsequently our home life, is the reason that I advocate for the Empowerment Scholarship Account program. I know that there are parents throughout Arizona who have children who are struggling or for whom the public school setting just isn’t working. By expanding the ESA program, the changes and growth that our family has experienced can be realized by so many more families. The ESA program provides choices for parents. As a parent participating in the ESA program, I know that it requires hard work, diligence, and transparency, but the rewards to our children are worth it! Doesn’t every child deserve that opportunity? Doesn’t every parent deserve that choice?
Sarah, Phoenix, AZ
As a former teacher, I know how important it is that ALL students have access to the best education that fits their individual needs. Prop 305 will make that a reality for ALL students in Arizona. Supporting Prop 305 will expand the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program to all Arizona students and will allow those students to access different schools and educational options decided by the parent. Prop 305 has strong accountability and transparency requirements to ensure that these dollars are being spent in accordance with the law and on the student. This is more transparency and accountability than exists for the traditional school system. In Arizona, we have a long history of putting students first and giving parents choices. Prop 305 will put parents in the driver seat of their children’s education and create a system where no child is trapped in a failing school or a school that is not the best fit for them. Prop 305 will save taxpayers money while having the money go directly to the student rather than being wasted on bloated administrations. Let’s give all Arizona students the chance to succeed! VOTE YES ON PROP 305!
Matt, Tucson, AZ
As told by his grandmother
My grandson qualifies for ESA because he has a specific learning disability identified as dyslexia. I am a certified teacher, with over 38 special education credits, so when I first started teaching him, I quickly discovered dyslexia wasn’t his only problem. His brain did not connect to the written word, nor did he retain anything he saw on paper, even though his vision score is 20/20.
Prior to ESA, I taught most of his lessons via free educational videos and free educational games. Exposing him to things he was curious about enabled me to discover he is gifted in science and history, so I knew he was very intelligent if not a genius in some areas, but I didn’t know what was holding him back until we had access to ESA funds.
The first thing I used our ESA funds for was a music therapist. I thought music would help him improve his math skills. I also took him to an occupational therapist. The OT’s initial examination unlocked the mystery. My grandson scored at age 5.2 in visual closures. This affects one’s ability to recognize letters and numbers. These are things that the public school was unable to identify. People who have difficulties in this area have a very difficult time learning how to read, write or compute math problems. Hence, the reason he seemed to be blind. He was weak in other areas as well, but this was the area causing him to have the most difficulties.
Within a matter of weeks, I noticed a huge improvement. He was able to read material that was too difficult in the past and he retained his math lessons. His music therapist immediately noticed he was gifted in music. In less than a year, he learned very sophisticated songs. His OT helped him memorize his multiplication tables by using silly songs. Every day he makes gains in areas that never seemed to stick, before. He is no longer frustrated when introduced to new material because his mind is more relaxed and receptive to things that are difficult for him to learn.
My grandson is thriving because of ESA. Please vote yes on 305, and help other children have access too.
Julie, Phoenix, AZ
I graduated in the top 5% of my class. You would think I enjoyed school. In reality, I struggled very badly because of stress from the struggles of learning. As a result, I suffered with health issues. I saw the same stress happening in my daughter that I saw in myself at her age (while in public school). She was diagnosed with ADHD and has not been able to focus on certain subjects to be able to pass them. I decided to apply for ESA, to help my daughter succeed in the subjects that she was having trouble with. ESA has completely taken the "learning stress" away from my daughter. With the ESA, I am able to purchase a curriculum that she enjoys. Along with a great curriculum, she has chosen gymnastics and a tutoring service. Without the ESA, she would have never been able to have the experiences she has been having. Because of ESA my daughter is able to enjoy each subject at her own pace, be stress free in regards to her learning/schooling and be a part of awesome extracurricular activities that she enjoys.
Edie, Surprise, AZ
As the mother of twins with special needs, public school has been a challenge. My twins have moderate to severe autism, and there is no autism program in the public school district where we live. Since there was no autism program available to us, our district chose to place the twins in a secluded environment designed for physically disabled students. The teacher and aides in the room were very busy helping the most physically disabled students, so the twins received no help with any type of education or with daily tasks like using the bathroom or opening their lunch boxes so they wouldn’t go hungry all day.
Under the current rules, it is necessary for students to complete the first 100 days of the school year at a public or charter school to receive a scholarship, or to complete the required educational hours through online programs. We chose to have our twins complete the online program in order to obtain an ESA scholarship. During this time, they not only qualified for the ESA, but they went from getting straight D’s in their former public school to straight A’s through online special education.
Now that we have ESA funding, the twins are enrolled in a private school that specializes in teaching students with autism and other learning differences.
Because of the ESA, we now have hope that our special needs children will have the opportunity to make friends, enjoy activities, and most importantly have access to a successful and promising education. We used to be uncertain of their future, and now we have hope. That hope is entirely due to the ESA program.
Please vote “yes” on Prop 305 and give students of all abilities access to the education they need and deserve.
Cherie, Phoenix, AZ
I applied for the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) for my son in May 2013. At the time, my son had just finished 4th grade at our public school, was multiple grade-levels behind his peers. His SPED identification is autism with sensory processing disorder and severe visual processing disorder. My son was identified as gifted in 2nd grade, yet is a SPED-autistic student; he’s intelligent, but challenging to teach. He is the middle child of five. All of his siblings attend public school. In every way possible, I worked with the public school system to help my son. I know the people I worked with did their best to teach him. However, it was time to accept that it wasn’t working. I knew that what he could perform in the public school classroom was not an accurate reflection of his intelligence and that his future looked bleak.
So, I applied for ESA without fully understanding how it worked to use it for my son’s learning. When I received the contract requiring a serious commitment, I was both excited and terrified. I signed the contract with hope that I could find a way to help him learn that accommodated his issues and needs yet provided a quality education worthy of his future dreams and goals.
I live in Page, AZ. There are no private schools, no plethora of therapeutic services to choose from. To use the ESA program here, requires a lot of creative thinking and networking. Accepting ESA required signing my son out of public school. Everything educational or therapeutic had to be hired privately and within the laws and parameters of the ESA program.
We have remained with ESA to this day. Five years into this method of providing education to my son, I can say I have no regrets and only gratitude. He has progressed tremendously! I continue to network and make use of every resource available in my remote little town. I have found highly qualified support. He is great at self-advocating as needed to meet his sensory needs. We call his school a “homeschool-hybrid”. The online formatted curriculum I’ve found has been ideal for his visual challenges, he skillfully navigates the computer, we can accommodate his pacing needs. I use ESA to pay for paraprofessionals, curriculum, a music therapist, and tuition at the local public school for CTE courses. He has been very successful in those classes. He is learning grade-level material. He believes in himself and will be able to pursue an independent future. He’s interested in video editing, film, design, and engineering. He knows his own learning style and how to help himself achieve his goals. All of this is made possible by breaking free from a public school system that meant well but was inadequate for him on it’s own. Un-tethering and embracing ESA has made all the difference in my son’s hope for an independent future. Thank you, ESA!
Kristie, Page, AZ
The ESA program has completely changed our son’s life for the better. With multiple diagnoses, including Autism, he has always been very bright and did well on testing, but struggled every day with organization skills, verbal expression, and social skills. In fifth grade, he had no friends, was being bullied regularly and, despite having a detailed IEP, was falling through the cracks at school.
He began to recognize that he was different and perceived that others saw this as a bad thing, yet he had no idea how to fix the situation. We had tried everything, participated in every therapy offered, played an active role in working with administrators and teachers, but he wasn’t able to maintain the pace at school and was becoming severely depressed.
One day, he said to me, “Mom, it’s like everyone else is a big city. They have lots of friends and good things. I’m like a tiny village and I have no one.”
My heart broke. I knew we needed to do something different for him, but we were coming off nearly two years of my husband being unemployed, we had two other young children and our funds were extremely limited. That’s when someone told me about the ESA program.
We were able to research school options for our son and settled on a private school that was the perfect fit for him. The first day he visited the school, he came home and said, “Mom, people actually wanted to sit with me at lunch! I have friends!”
We finally had a school who understood him and worked together with us. We were a team with one goal: to prepare him for a positive, productive life ahead, to help him strengthen weak areas and amplify the places where he excelled.
Soon, he was learning the organizational skills, social skills, and verbal skills that he so desperately needed. He was able to advance academically, meeting his full potential. He participated in sports, student government, and community service projects. We were driving 120 miles per day before we found a carpool, but it was a small sacrifice to make in order to see our son truly thriving.
None of this would have been possible without ESA. Without it, we might now be dealing with a depressed, isolated, and potentially self-destructive young man. Instead, we have a child who is constantly improving his skills and is being prepared for his bright future. ESA truly saved our son’s life and changed our family for the better. He’s no longer lost in the system.
Our son has so much to offer the world, not just despite his differences, but because of them. We’ve always known it, but now he knows it, too.
Shannon, Phoenix, AZ
As told by his mother
"My son was 12 years old when we moved to Arizona from across the country. He along with his other siblings struggled with our move so far away and began showing signs of struggling at the schools available to us. We were told by a charter school Principal that it was okay for him to make low grades there since he made high grades at a typical school. That was not okay to me, and shouldn’t be okay to anyone else. When we found out about the Empowerment Scholarship program, knowing we qualified, we applied for our son right away. Since becoming a recipient for ESA, we have seen much improvement in our child’s learning, his attitude toward himself and others, and a huge improvement in his grades. We are able to provide him with materials to help with his eyesight and further support in subjects he struggled in. We whole-heartedly support school choice because it is a parents’ right to find and use the best education for their child. Without ESA, our children wouldn’t have the opportunities to learn and grow in a loving, therapeutic environment as they have now. Please vote yes on Prop 305, and open this choice up to all students seeking the most educational options!"
Kira, Tucson, AZ
“My name is Esmeralda. I am an Air Force Veteran and Arizona resident, having served in the Iraqi War. I am also a military spouse to an Active Duty Member of 19 years. We have 2 children, one was diagnosed with developmental delays and the another one in the Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Our journey to access therapeutic services has been challenging to say the least, even with good insurance and being an active military family. We have had so many barriers just to get our oldest diagnosed with Autism. In the fall of 2016, the military granted us Exceptional Family Member relocation orders to Las Vegas in order for our oldest to have access to better education and medical treatment.
To our surprise, the Las Vegas education system was at the bottom of the rankings when it came to schools. We did the best we could for our oldest child entering Kindergarten and enrolled her in a charter school. The school year was bumpy. The teacher quit within a week of school starting, and the class size and noise were too much for my daughter. I ended up being a volunteer all year inside of the classroom to stay with her to make sure she could get through the curriculum. At the end of the school year, we decided that she needed access to specialized education.
We weighed our options and decided that Arizona would be our retirement home from the military and this is why I’m so passionate about the ESA program.
Through the ESA program, military families and any special needs families do not have to go through so many hoops to get funding for their child to receive the education and services that they NEED and DESERVE.
The ESA program should be available for ALL children.”
Esmeralda, Phoenix, AZ
As told by his mother
“My 7-year-old son is a happy and healthy little boy, who loves legos, the beach, and most of all coloring and drawing. But, he was not always this way. He was often angry and distressed when it came to learning and schoolwork, especially letters and reading. He had already been seeing a speech therapist for three years, and had been in the Arizona Early Intervention program as well. I felt his struggles weren’t normal, and decided to finally have him tested to see if there might be another learning disability that we didn’t know about. After several evaluations through the district and some at our own expense, we finally received an official diagnosis of severe dyslexia and dysgraphia, along with his speech issues. To say we were relieved to finally know why our son was struggling is an understatement.
Unfortunately, in the process of doing a MET report and an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) with the Scottsdale School District, we learned that there are no dyslexia remediation programs available for children in the district. He could receive an hour of extra reading help each week, but nothing that would help him remediate and overcome his dyslexia and dysgraphia. After researching private tutoring programs for him, we realized that it would be too expensive for us to pay for on our own, especially because we have another child with dyslexia as well.
Thank goodness for the ESA program!
ESA will allow our son to get the therapy he needs; therapy the schools cannot provide. Please vote yes on Prop 305, and consider all the children like my son, who would not get the help they need if not for the ESA program.”
Jenny, Scottsdale, AZ
*Children's names changed to protect their privacy; Also for the sake of privacy, all photos are illustrative and do not depict the actual subjects of the stories.