Hoffman Celebrates “Back To School,” ESA Students Left Out

Hoffman swore to uphold Arizona laws. [Photo from ADE]

The Retel family of Laveen are just the latest victims trapped in Arizona’s labyrinth of education laws, and who find themselves at the mercy of the politicians tasked with administering them or crafted them in the first place.

Unfortunately for the Retel family, their quest to secure the best education available for their special needs child landed them squarely in the ongoing Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) fight between those aforementioned politicians.

Labyrinth noun lab·y·rinth

1: a place constructed of or full of intricate passageways and blind alleys, a complex labyrinth of tunnels and chambers

2: something extremely complex or tortuous in structure, arrangement, or character

The Retel’s case is complex, but the short-term solution doesn’t have to be. Someone – some adult in power – needs to put their thinking cap on and find a way to get this family the money they were promised by the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) post haste.

Just the facts

Emerson Retel is a 7 year-old-boy with a speech delay. His learning disability/challenge qualifies him as a candidate for an ESA. However, because Emerson – at the age of 7 – has not attended an Arizona school full-time for the requisite 100 days, he was denied an ESA opportunity by the bureaucrats at the ADE.

Think about that for a moment: Emerson would have had to spend time in Arizona classrooms in order to be free from them and receive the money Arizona taxpayers intended for him to have. How does that make any sense to anyone?

According to AZFamily.com, Emerson and 27 other homeschooled students, who attended Mesa Public School’s Eagleridge School, were erroneously granted ESAs. Eagleridge provides enrichment classes and other support services for homeschooled students.

Eagleridge only offers a part-time schedule. Despite this, Eagleridge officials encouraged families like the Retels to apply for ESAs.

In Emerson’s case, an ESA was approved for the 2019-2020 school year. In fact, Emerson’s dad, Mike, applied for ESAs for Emerson and 3 siblings and all were approved.

The 4 month delay effectively prevented the family from taking action to cure the matter by either enrolling Emerson in a qualifying school for 100 days, or filing a civil rights claim in a timely manner.

Finger pointing serves no one

The ADE, headed by Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, is blaming the Legislature and some members of the Legislature are blaming Hoffman.

The finger pointing is politically strategic but has no value for parents and kids.
From what I can tell the law is a disaster and needs to be fixed. It needs to be fixed by people who are willing to ignore the wants and needs of the teacher’s union, the ASBA, traditional, charter, or private schools. It needs to be fixed to serve kids and their families.

Come to think of it; the long-term solution doesn’t have to be that complicated either. If of course – and it is a big if – the people who claim to care about kids put them first.