Military Family Denied ESA By Arizona Department Of Education

Saquawia Pennington
Saquawia and Jace Pennington. [Photo from American Federation for Children]

Josh and Saquawia Pennington were stunned when their young son was denied an Empowerment Scholarship Account by the Arizona Department of Education. The military family was notified by the Department that Saquawia, who is currently active military serving at Fort Huachuca, was not recognized as 5-year-old Jace’s legal guardian.

The Department notified Josh, a veteran, in a letter dated June 18, 2019 that the family’s request for an Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) scholarship was denied. The Department claimed that as per A.R.S. 15-2401 7(a)(vi), Jace did not qualify because only students whose legal guardian is an active military member can receive the benefit.

“I am mom,” said Saquawia in a video that in a short time has been shared hundreds of times.

Not only does Saquawia see herself as Jace’s mom, the military recognizes Jace as her dependent according to Jace’s DD Form 1172.

Josh and Saquawia reached out to the Arizona Department of Education in the hopes of talking to Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman. They believed that if Hoffman saw the love and care Saquawia provides to her stepson there could be no mistake that she was, for all intents and purposes, not only his legal guardian, but his mom.

The fact that Hoffman hasn’t returned their call comes as no surprise to many. Hoffman bragged on the campaign trail that she was running against then-Superintendent Diane Douglas just to eliminate ESAs. Hoffman and other opponents claim ESAs rob traditional public schools of young bodies and the money that follows them.

In the state of Arizona, schools are paid in part on a per child basis. In other words, the public funding follows the child.

“Ms. Hoffman showed her contempt for our constitution, laws and citizens of Arizona when she took her oath of office on a children’s fiction book. So why are we surprised that Hoffman’s crew would misinterpret the law in order to deny a beautiful mom the right to give her child the best available education? It is disappointing at best.”

“I say a prayer for every family in the program while it is under Ms. Hoffman’s oversight, no family is safe” concluded Douglas.

In a memo, Legislative Counsel agreed that Hoffman’s team has “misinterpreted” the law and believes that Jace does qualify for the ESA program.

Whether or not Hoffman is out to end the program, it feels that way to more than one person. “It just seems to me it seems as though – and this is a personal note – it just seems as though there might be somebody that doesn’t like the program. That doesn’t want the program in existence, or into the future, and if they discourage more people, less people apply and eventually the program will just kind of end,” Joshua say in the video.

Earlier this year, Hoffman went after Navajo Nation parents living near the Arizona New Mexico border who used ESAs to send their children to the nearest private school, which happened to be in New Mexico.

Hoffman acknowledged that the families innocently spent the money, but it didn’t stop the Department from using the issue as further evidence to condemn the program.

There have been abuses of the program, but it is hoped that newly developed oversight should eliminate fraud and misspending.



  1. all well and good and when she becomes his ‘legal’ guardian – all will be well and good – just the way it is. I think for good reason, but even if red tape, those are the current laws and became daddy and girlfriend are not married or have not legalized her position as mother, guardian – it’s no dice. Complete the process and no problem.

    • So the next time a liberal complains or sues over the “spirit” of a law being unjust we can use this ^ excuse to disregard their complaint too?

      Way to find sound, compromise for solutions to social concerns. “opera applause for the peanut gallery”

    • I agree, BillyB. Dependent status in the military is not the same as legal ward. Complete the process of legal guardianship. Follow the stated law.

  2. The Insurrection Act will be here before the 2020 election. If the immigration debate with Congress were like a strategic poker game, this would be President Trump

    ’s “ace in the hole” for winning immigration poker — the “Trump card,” if you will. Trump considers himself a winner and a fixer, and likely believes the Insurrection Act will fix military border mission ambiguity and help him win the ongoing immigration battle, two issues long plaguing his administration.

    The border situation is heating up. In a generally unreported incident in the early morning hours on May 29, a U.S. Marine stationed at a “mobile surveillance camera site” in El Centro, Calif., near the U.S.-Mexico border said he was attacked by three individuals and fired his weapon in self-defense. U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) officials confirmed the Marine discharged his weapon but withheld further comment pending an investigation.

  3. Yes demon-crats, for years I have heard “it’s for the children” over and over. Changed allegiances? from US citizen children to foreign children?
    How anyone in their right mind could be a democrat is beyond my understanding. But then that’s just it, it is beyond any sane understanding and verges on a insanity that is quite frightening and often comical.
    Any sane dem reading this, how can you sleep at night?

    • The same way you manage it and if I am not mistaken the Republicans are in charge and I would think if that Democrat got elected she’s probably Republican light. Not a fan of Democrats or Republicans and I registered as an independent myself. I’m just hoping that we’re smart enough to recognize that we need to elect someone who truly cares about all families and that’s Bernie Sanders. Any and all resources should be available to our military families regardless. By the way the military sees him as her dependent and that should be the end of it.

  4. Hey all you democrats. How about the children? Apparently it’s only illegal aliens that tug at your heart strings.

  5. And : Josh and Saquawia reached out to the Arizona Department of Education and had hoped to talked to Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman.

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