How Arizona parents can get the state to pay for the best schools

Business News | 16 May |

Alex Sikorski, is graduating as Valedictorian from Gateway Academy in Phoenix. Sikorski is a National Honor Society student and is headed to Grand Canyon University. Gateway Academy is a nationally recognized K-12 school specializing in academically bright children with Asperger’s Syndrome and high-functioning Autism. Almost all of Gateway’s students — who join the likes of Dan Aykroyd, Howard Hughes, Satoshi Tajiri (the creator of Pokemon) and Bill Gates in having Asperger’s — go onto college and other post-secondary schools.

Gateway Academy’s students have gone onto to Arizona State University, Grand Canyon University, community colleges as well as music, theology and culinary schools.  But Sikorski and other Gateway graduates might not be on their future paths without Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts.

The Education Savings Accounts are a key but often untapped resource for parents. They cover 100 percent of costs for students with Autism to attend innovative and elite schools such as Gateway Academy, which has annual tuition of $26,800, all of which can be paid for by the state. Approximately 5,000 families currently use the ESA program to pay for private and other schools.

“Many families are not aware of the important role Empowerment Scholarship Accounts can play in providing educational options to students and finding them the best academic and social environments,” said Gateway Academy Executive Director and CEO, O. Robin Sweet.

Sweet said the ESA program allowed Sikorski to attend Gateway Academy and find a more welcoming, creative and productive learning environment than at other schools.

“His parents were able to secure the ESA scholarship, and Alex made great leaps and bounds each and every year. He joined the National Honor Society and soared as a leader and always went above and beyond the number of community service hours required for membership,” Sweet said.

Arizona’s ESAs pay for a percentage of annual education costs for parents of K-12 and preschool students with a disability. They also cover active duty military families, Native Americans, foster kids and families living within geographic boundaries of an underperforming school.

Voters turned down an expansion of ESAs in 2018 but the program benefitting kids with disabilities as well as Native Americans, military families, foster children and students living near underperforming schools has not gone away.

The Education Savings Accounts program has been around since 2011. They offer parents a chance to choose private schools and other options that might better fit students needs.

The student-to-teacher ratio in Gateway Academy’s Lower School is 6-to-1, Middle School is 8-to-1 and 10-to-1 in High School. The private Phoenix school offers Advanced Placement classes, music programs, a world language lab, a virtual reality lab as well as equine and speech therapy. Gateway operates year-round programs from July to May of each year and offers a Summer Social Camp. The school also accepts enrollments year around.

“Gateway Academy is customized for our Twice Exceptional students. We offer smaller class sizes and an instructional culture specifically tailored for them,” Sweet said.

For more information about Gateway Academy, and its services call (480) 998-1071 or visit https://www.gatewayacademy.us/.

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