Budget deal includes new accountability measures for Arizona's school voucher program

By Bridget Dowd
Published: Wednesday, May 10, 2023 - 7:35am
Updated: Wednesday, May 10, 2023 - 7:53am

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Gov. Katie Hobbs’ budget deal has taken a lot of heat from Democrats who want to see a cap on Arizona’s school voucher program.

But, while the cap was a non-starter with Republicans, the governor’s office said the budget does include some accountability measures for the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, known as ESAs. 

Those measures would require a quarterly report to be put together with certain information about students using ESAs, which allow families to use state funds to pay for private schools.

Chuck Essigs is with the Arizona Association of School Business Officials. He said the move makes sense as the school voucher program is nearing the size of Arizona's largest public school district, Mesa Public Schools.

Charles Essigs
(Photo by Lauren Gilger - KJZZ)
Chuck Essigs is director of government relations with the Arizona Association of School Business Officials.

“When you look at a program, which is serving well over 50,000 students and is probably going to start to serve a lot more than that, spending maybe $500 million, the state ought to know the characteristics of those students.”

The information would include things like the annual award amount associated with each ESA, the number of students who attended a public school before the expansion and the number of kids who are English language learners or who have disabilities.

“We know a lot about the number of students in Mesa," Essigs said. "We know what grades they’re in, the districts provide a lot of information. We know very little- almost nothing about the students in the ESA program.”

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