Arizona AG Warns Parents of Possible Scams From ESA Vendors
Attorney General Kris Mayes warned Arizona families to be aware of the rights they give up when leaving the public school system with Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) funds. Families should also watch out for any ESA vendors and schools that may not intend to keep promises about their children’s education.
With the universal expansion of ESAs and the new school year beginning, families should be aware that when they accept ESA funds and leave the public school system, they give up rights under the federal statute that guarantees children with disabilities a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and the federal statute that provides parents with the right to access their children’s educational records (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA).
“Families should not be denied admission or kicked out of private schools because of a child’s disabilities,” said Attorney General Mayes. “To make matters worse, private schools often refuse to share the educational records behind those decisions. Because FAPE and FERPA don’t apply to private schools, families have no recourse under federal law. It’s important for Arizona families to be aware of the rights they give up when they leave the public school system.”
If using ESA funds for private school or schooling at home is the preferred educational choice, families should make sure they choose reputable schools and vendors. Even still, families should know that when they accept an ESA, they lose protections from discrimination related to a child’s learning abilities, religion and sexual orientation.
Under A.R.S. § 15-2404, a school that accepts ESA funds “shall not be required to alter its creed, practices, admissions policy or curriculum.” Since many private schools have admissions policies or practices that would be illegal at a public school, it is important that families know this before giving up their right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education.
Despite the many rights given up by accepting an ESA, Arizona families are still protected by Arizona’s robust consumer protection laws and anti-discrimination laws. So, if an ESA vendor or private school makes promises related to your child, their admissions policy, or their curriculum, they will be held to those promises.
“As a mom, I know how important a child’s education is and I know that, as parents, we all want what is best for our children,” said Attorney General Mayes. “I want families to know that if vendors or private schools take advantage of this, the Attorney General’s Office will investigate to the fullest extent of our authority.”
If you believe you have been the victim of fraud by an ESA vendor or private school, file a consumer complaint by visiting www.azag.gov/consumer. If you need a complaint form sent to you, contact the Attorney General’s Office in Phoenix at (602) 542-5763, in Tucson at (520) 628-6648, or outside the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas at (800) 352-8431.
If you believe you or your child has been discriminated against by an ESA vendor or private school based on disability, race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), national origin, or ancestry, contact the Civil Rights Division of the Attorney General’s Office by visiting www.azag.gov/civil-rights.