September 7, 2023

Kevin Stone: Arizona attorney general warns parents that school voucher program is ‘buyer-beware situation’

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Arizona’s attorney general Kris Mayes warns voucher families that they need to pay attention to what they’re giving up.

Mayes said public school students are protected by federal anti-discrimination laws, but private schools students aren’t.

“I’m just worried that a lot of parents don’t know that when they use an ESA, they lose their federal rights not to be discriminated against, especially kids with disabilities,” she said.

Mayes also said private schools and other ESA-funded vendors aren’t required to provide educational records, another thing guaranteed under federal law.

“A lot of folks who might be seeking to use a voucher … might be doing so because their child has a special need, but they need to make sure that the school that they’ve chosen is not going to toss them out of that school midstream,” she said.

Mayes said she’d like to see the Legislature pass a law that prevents ESA vendors from discriminating against students based on learning disabilities, which is currently allowable.
She’s also concerned about the prospects for fraud.

Mayes also has concerns that the rapid school voucher expansion leaves the program susceptible to fraud.

“We’re talking about a billion dollars in taxpayer funds, and I’m worried about the potential for fly-by-night companies, fly-by-night schools coming into Arizona, vendors that are just out there to make a buck,” she said.

Mayes said that if a school fails to fulfill promises it makes, parents should contact her office about potential consumer fraud violations.

“I think there’s a reason to warn parents that this is, right now, given the state of the law, a buyer-beware situation,” she said. “Parents need to go in this eyes wide open, and they need to ask tough questions of these vendors.”

Read the full interview here.

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