Arizona ESA families were right all along: Matt Beienburg

Posted on: April 28, 2020

After heaping contempt and suspicion on the families participating in Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program for years, partisan activists should acknowledge that their diagnoses of the program’s ailments have been wrong, and their solutions poorly prescribed.

That’s because an extraordinary new report from Arizona’s Office of the Auditor General confirms what ESA parents have been saying all along: that their families need clarity and consistency from program administrators, not condemnation and bureaucratic bloat.

For example, in perhaps the most striking statistic in the report, state auditors found that ESA parents have received chronically unreliable information from the Arizona Department of Education (ADE): “Program staff provided poor-quality information in 24% of calls” with ESA parents during 2019, such as an episode when “staff erroneously advised a customer that a specific tutoring service was not an allowable expense.” In other words, nearly one out of every four ESA parents who sought help understanding program rules came away still unclear – if not actively misinformed – about what constituted an eligible purchase, for example.

This revelation puts a very different spin on the reported misspending within the ESA program, but more importantly, it also vindicates the parents who for years have been pleading with legislators for relief from fickle approvals offered and then rescinded by department officials.

To read the rest of this column in the Arizona Capitol Times, please click here.

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