Arizona, Florida ESAs Show How Colorado Could Help Kids Like Nathan

A couple months ago I was going wild and crazy (in a good way) with the news that the Arizona Supreme Court upheld the fabulous and liberating Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs).

We remember a very important reason why a cutting-edge program like this one is so great when we hear directly from the families who benefit. Thanks to the Foundation for Excellence in Education, I came across a terrific letter by Arizona mom Amanda Howard. Her autistic son Nathan struggled in a regular kindergarten classroom, and still wasn’t talking at age 6, when they received an ESA:

I don’t fault the public school, and I hope that one day Nathan would be prepared for a traditional classroom, but he’s not there now. Using an education savings account has been a tremendous improvement for us. Since he’s been using an account, I’ve found a one-on-one tutor for him and a new school that helps students with autism. Today, Nathan has learned to talk and he loves learning to spell and even reading books.

For a family like ours that struggled for years to see progress like this, it’s amazing to watch my little boy smile and we relish the little things, like having conversations together. Imagine having to wait six years — or more — to get to enjoy these things.

Speaking as a kid who sometimes has too much to say, my mom can hardly imagine that scenario. We little tykes can be very different. About two-thirds of the first 316 Arizona families receiving ESAs used them kind of like a regular voucher, to pay for private tuition, but the rest customized them to purchase different services that helped serve their children’s unique needs.

Not every story is exactly like Nathan’s, but I think any warm-blooded parent has to nod and recognize what a good program this has been for a growing number of youngsters in the Grand Canyon State. And now we can look forward to more stories from Florida, which followed in Arizona’s footsteps to create a similar Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts program.

Little old me can only dream and hope that Colorado might be next.