Arizona became the first state in 2011 to enact an education savings account (ESA) program, which allows parent who prefer a non-public school option to have 90% of the funds the state would have paid to enroll their child in a public school deposited into a tax-free savings account instead. Parents can use those funds to pay for authorized education expenses such as tutoring, private school tuition, and online courses, and remaining funds can be reserved for future education expense such as college tuition.

Research shows that Arizona parents are tailoring their children’s ESAs for a variety of education-related expenses, meaning students are getting highly customized education options. What’s more, such individualized education options make parents very satisfied.

Kate Scanlon, Young Leaders Program member at The Heritage Foundation, explains what customized education options mean for Arizona parents in the Daily Signal:

Kami Cothrun was a frustrated public school teacher when she decided to open a school of her own. She “saw a need” and decided to act.

What started out as a small endeavor with just six students has blossomed into three Arizona campuses with 200 special-needs students. …

“I’d heard a lot of struggles from families—things that they wished could be changed, things they wished public schools would do,” Cothrun told The Daily Signal. “I took all of that information and created Pieceful Solutions. And so, really, just to offer something, bigger, better, different is really kind of my philosophy.” …

The school was created in 2008 to help children with autism and other disabilities. It takes a different approach from public schools, utilizing innovative teaching techniques to improve learning.

ESAs are helping Arizona education entrepreneurs—who are parent and philanthropists—by-pass the big ED bureaucracy, and focus on students instead:

Cothrun, who has a bachelor’s degree in speech and language and a master’s in special education, taught in Mesa, Ariz., public schools for five years but became frustrated with the “bureaucracy” as she tried to teach students with special needs.

That led her to start a new K-12 school—the first in Arizona specifically for autism. Today, she serves as the school’s executive director. …

“I was struggling with the bureaucracy of a public school district,” said Cothrun. “I really wanted to offer something different to families.” …

Cothrun said that Education Savings Accounts gave her the freedom to provide more for her students and their families. Today, Pieceful Solutions offers classes such as “karate, yoga, music therapy, cooking, lots and lots of speech and language, small class sizes and a high student-teacher ratio.”

“It has allowed me, as the founder of the school, to be able to offer our program to so many more families,” Cothrun said. “When I first started Pieceful Solutions six years ago, ESA didn’t exist and so for families to afford a private education, it was rare. It was nearly impossible.

“With the ESA, these families can get the specific individualized education that their child needs using the dollars straight for the school,” she said.