PHOENIX – Arizona families have been struggling with the Arizona Department of Education and its handling of the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program. The Department is required by law to make quarterly deposits of scholarship dollars into parents’ accounts, but more than 120 Arizona families have been waiting weeks for the money.
Now, an Arizona family has come forward and initiated legal action against the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) for failing to follow state law regarding the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program.
Attorneys for the Liberty Justice Center and the Goldwater Institute have filed a Notice of Claim against the Department on behalf of a military family who uses ESA funds.
“These families are trying to do what’s best for their children, and Arizona’s ESA program was designed to help them do that. But the Arizona Department of Education has been so slow and unresponsive to parents’ needs that it is now causing serious disruption to the education of these kids, and serious financial hardships to these families,” said Timothy Sandefur, vice president for litigation at the Goldwater Institute in a press release. “We urge the Department to give these parents the money they’re entitled to under this program, and to cease these pointless and even illegal delays.”
According to the attorneys, it is unclear what is causing the delay, but the manner in which the ESA program is administered appears to have changed significantly in recent months. ESA families submit quarterly receipts to prove scholarship funds are being used for educational services, but despite providing timely receipts from the previous quarter, many families have not received ESA funds for the current quarter almost two weeks after the most recent deadline.
The attorneys argue that the Department’s failure to follow through on its legal obligation in a timely manner is a real burden for families, which depend on these scholarships.
“The Arizona Department of Education needs to do right by these families and promptly make their deposits,” said Daniel Suhr, senior associate attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. “There is no excuse for failing in a basic obligation that puts hundreds of kids’ educations at risk due to the department’s failure.”