By Kim Martinez
Just weeks into the new academic year in Arizona, families at two schools west of Phoenix were informed that their schools would be shut down for repairs and their children would be displaced for the time being. One of those schools is a D rated school according to the Arizona Department of Education’s website. The parents from that low-performing school were told their kids would be temporarily shifted to another low-performing school and would have a shortened school day. An already bad situation is getting worse for these families who are largely Hispanic.
However because Arizona embraces school choice, there is a glimmer of hope for these families through education savings accounts (ESAs). In Arizona, families whose children are assigned to a D or F rated school is automatically qualified for this comprehensive program.
Hearing the plight of these parents in various news reports, a group of bilingual education advocates sprung into action. The job at hand is to contact parents and teach them what ESAs are and how they work. Parents are learning that they can receive up to 90 percent of what the state was paying their low-performing school to educate their child. By opting to receive the money, parents are empowered to make the best education choices for their children including using the ESA funds to pay for private school tuition, online curriculum, home schooling, tutors, books and other education expenses.
Applications from several of these displaced families have already been submitted to the Arizona Department of Education. For those parents, their school shutting down may have been the best thing that could have happened. It gave them the opportunity to learn about school choice, explore their options and find a different path for their child’s education.
Offering options to go to any school a child needs is just as crucial as building up the low-performing schools in our Latino neighborhoods. We shouldn’t wait for schools to shut down to teach school choice options to Hispanic parents. Let’s recognize the education needs of neighborhoods across the country and encourage parents to exercise their right to choose.