Gov. Doug Ducey has signed SB1332 into law, officially expanding the state’s innovate Empowerment Scholarship Account program offering unprecedented educational options to all students living on tribal lands, which includes 22 reservations in total.
According to the Arizona Department of Education, Native American students have the state’s lowest graduation rate at 61 percent making Native children less likely to graduate than any other ethnicity or group including students with special needs.
Arizona has the second largest Native American student population in the United States. Most of the 55,000 Native American students in Arizona attend school on or near their reservation. The new law gives these families on tribal lands, mostly in rural areas, the opportunity to customize their children’s education. Parents can choose how to use their state-funded education accounts and can pay for options like private school tuition, online classes, homeschooling or other education related expenses.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Carlyle Begay, D- Ganado, who has made education in his district, including the Navajo Nation and eight other Tribal communities, a top priority.
“My gratitude goes out to Gov. Ducey … for signing a bill that means so much to families living in my district and throughout all of Arizona’s tribal communities,” Sen. Carlyle Begay, D-Ganado said. “Native American parents went from having almost no options to having a mechanism to build their child’s education around their child’s learning needs. It is an exciting first step toward fixing education on tribal lands!”
With the new law, ESA eligibility now includes students in D or F rated schools, students with special needs, students in adoptive care, students with an active-duty military parent, siblings of an ESA recipient, and students living within the boundaries of an Arizona reservation.