AFC - Special Interests Sue to Remove Arizona Children With Special Needs from Private Schools

AFC Decries Lawsuit by Arizona Education Association and Arizona School Boards Association

PHOENIX, ARIZONA (September 27, 2011) - The Arizona Education Association (AEA) and the Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA) today filed yet another lawsuit to remove children with special needs from the private schools of their parents’ choice.

The American Federation for Children – the nation’s voice for school choice and a key player in Arizona education policymaking – decried the lawsuit, which seeks to deprive children with special needs access to the schools of their parents' choice. AFC urged Arizonans to contact their local school boards and to call the AEA (877-828-1983) to express their opposition to using teacher dues and school board money to fund legal action against children with special needs.

AFC said that the lawsuit would leave more than 100 Arizona families confused about the status of their current schooling; 167 families and their children with special needs were provided with access to Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) by the Arizona Department of Education for the Fall 2011 school semester.

Sponsored by State Senator Rick Murphy and House Majority Whip Debbie Lesko as SB 1553 and signed by Governor Jan Brewer in the last legislative session, ESAs allow parents of children with special needs to receive an account that the parents can use to choose the best educational services and environment for their children.

“The law was only able to go into effect on July 20th,” said House Majority Whip Debbie Lesko. “One hundred and sixty-seven families signed up and were approved for ESAs by the August 1st deadline for the start of this school semester. That was a very short window. That indicates the demand for ESAs from families whose children have special needs. Filing a lawsuit, after these students with special needs have been in school for almost two months, is terribly disruptive. Special needs children require stability – placing their education in limbo in mid-semester demonstrates a total lack of compassion.”

Empowerment Scholarship Accounts are accounts established to provide an education for children with special needs. Parents can use the accounts to select an array of educational options for their children; these educational environments must include reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science.

Read this release online here.