Beth Lewis & Melinda Iyer: Universal ESA vouchers: Arizona’s $1 billion failed experiment
Writing for the Arizona Mirror, Beth Lewis and Melinda Iyer explain how badly vouchers have failed Arizona taxpayers.
It’s becoming abundantly clear that Arizona’s universal voucher program, formally known as Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, or ESA, is a failed $1 billion experiment that comes at the expense of over 1 million Arizona kids.
And now Republican political strategists are warning the politicians pushing these unregulated, budget-busting vouchers that they do so at their own peril.
Longtime GOP strategist Barrett Marson sharply criticized Arizona’s Republican legislative majority for their carelessly constructed program: “(Tom) Horne has estimated approaching $1 billion for this program, and there are no controls.”
GOP campaign consultant and lobbyist Chuck Coughlin expressed skepticism that Horne, the state superintendent of public instruction, would actually ensure oversight of “overwhelmed” ESA vouchers, saying “the infrastructure just isn’t there” and calling Horne’s sworn attempts to ensure voucher accountability “legal fiction.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Indeed, Horne’s Department of Education is issuing nonstop approvals for frivolous and extravagant voucher expenditures, underscoring the program’s utter lack of accountability. Taxpayer-funded vouchers for waterskiing lessons in Missouri? Museum tickets in Europe? Espresso machines, home gyms and bounce houses? All approved, paid for with tax dollars.
On average, ESA vouchers are diverting $300,000 away from every neighborhood school in the state, even as local public school teachers struggle to fund basic supplies like printer paper and crayons to start the school year.
Arizona voters are right to be hopping mad.