More parents are seeking state-funded school vouchers amid the coronavirus pandemic

Posted at 7:31 AM, Aug 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-13 10:31:53-04

TEMPE, AZ — More Arizona parents are exploring options for schooling that include the state-funded empowerment scholarships for students in K-12.

The Empowerment Scholarship Account, known commonly as ESA, is a school voucher program where eligible students are able to attend a private school of their family’s choice, paid either fully or partially with their allocated state tax dollars.

The Department of Education tells ABC15 they had 400 applicants in July 2019 and 1,200 in July 2020, citing a drastic increase this year.

One Chandler parent who sought out the program was Kim Kriesel of Chandler.

“It’s a great feeling,” says Kriesel as she talks about her two children being in a private school that offers in-person learning.

This week, her daughter Charlie Crystal, who is in fourth grade, and her son Colton, who is in sixth grade, started their orientation week at Valley Christian School in Tempe.

“I have somewhat like survivor guilt because we have a great scenario. My children are in school right now as I'm sitting here talking,” adds Kriesel.

The Chandler mom took her kids out of the Chandler Unified School District and put them in a private school when COVID-19 put the educational system into mostly online learning.

“My son is with his classmates in person. That's what felt good for our family,” she says.

Kriesel says she sought out the school because it fit with her family's belief that, while dangerous, coronavirus shouldn’t keep kids from being inside a brick-and-mortar school learning and socializing.

“Our family motto, mostly my husband and I, is that we would rather fight and die from coronavirus than to sit in our house for the next year and a half and not live,” she adds.

Not only did Kriesel find the right school for her family, she also took advantage of the state's ESA program where she is allowed to use her tax dollars geared toward education at the school of her choice.

Her daughter qualifies for the program because she is dyslexic. Her son also qualifies because he is a sibling of a child who qualifies.

“It mostly covers about 75% of the tuition cost for the year with the ESA funds,” adds Kriesel.

According to Kriesel, the school is taking all necessary precautions amid the coronavirus pandemic, requiring masks in the classroom. The masks, she says, come off when the children are at recess, lunch, or gym class. She also says the classroom size is small, between 12 and 14 students.

“There are definitely risks, I don't want to say the risks are minimal, but I feel the benefits outweigh the risks.”

Read more about ESA and see Eligibility Requirements & Application here.