Ariz. Voucher Program Mostly Benefits Wealthy, New Study Shows.


A voucher program in Arizona that was supposed to help students with special needs is mainly allowing students in high-performing public schools to transfer to private institutions at taxpayer expense, a new study shows.

Vouchers in Arizona go by the euphemistic name of "Empowerment Scholarship Accounts" (ESAs). A recent analysis by the Arizona Republic in Phoenix found, "Nearty 70 percent of the money from the voucher-like Empowerment Scholarship Accounts is being used by students leaving A- or B-rated districts to attend private schools... By contrast, only 7 percent of ESA money is being used by students leaving districts rated D or F."

Observed the newspaper, "The findings undercut a key contention of the lawmakers and advocacy groups that pushed to expand the state's ESA program: that financially disadvantaged families from struggling schools reap the benefit of expanded school choice."

Americans United says these findings aren't surprising. They track data in other states where vouchers are often being used to supplement the tuition costs of wealthy families whose kids are already attending a private school.

Around the same time the newspaper report was issued, the state's auditor general put out a report finding that the program lacks adequate oversight to avoid diversion of funds for non-educational purposes.

Parents in the voucher program are given debit cards to pay for tuition and some legitimate education expenses like tutoring. The report found that some parents are defrauding the state to use the cards for other purposes.

"The Auditor General found some parents used the ESA cards for transactions at beauty supply retailers, sports apparel shops and computer technical support providers," reported...

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