Botched Universal Voucher Rollout Infuriates ESA Parents

Botched Universal Voucher Rollout Infuriates ESA Parents


February 27th, 2023

Contact: Beth Lewis, 480-621-2932

Botched Universal Voucher Rollout Infuriates ESA Parents 

It’s no secret that Arizona’s universal ESA voucher program is a giant fiasco, driving up $200 million in unbudgeted costs to taxpayers — but currently the fiercest critics are parents who were already using the ESA voucher program before universal expansion. This morning, angry parents testified for hours in front of the Arizona State Board of Education, calling for the ouster of Christine Accurso, the ADE’s new ESA Director appointed by Superintendent Tom Horne. Many of these parents have been using ESA vouchers for their students with special needs and now feel abandoned due to a flood of new students taking advantage of the universal subsidies. 

Parents turned out en masse to register their concern about the mismanagement of the ESA voucher program under Horne and Accurso, including extensive wait times for reimbursements and myriad confusing, mid-year administrative changes that are in direct conflict with the ESA Handbook as approved by the State Board of Education. 

The ADE is also pushing through rule changes that water down certification requirements for tutors, lowering the bar still further for educational attainment. Last week, Accurso sent a letter to parents stating that tutors now need only provide their high school diploma to receive ESA funds. This is in direct conflict with the ESA Handbook, which states that core subject tutors must have at least a bachelor’s degree or a specific credential in the subject area. Offering a blanket accreditation to virtually any adult in the state leaves children vulnerable and could mislead parents looking for highly qualified educators.

The ESA voucher program is already costing Arizona taxpayers over $600 million every year (and growing); it should be held to the same transparency and accountability standards as our public schools. As Save Our Schools Arizona’s Executive Director Beth Lewis stated in her testimony to the Board: “Arizona taxpayers want to know where their taxpayer dollars are going, and we all should want real accountability to ensure children are safe and learning. Watering down standards for individual tutors will have the opposite effect, and is not in compliance with the Board’s rules. ” 

The Arizona Legislature must pass measures to ensure the ESA voucher  program is being managed properly. Senator Christine Marsh’s SB1706, currently awaiting a vote by the Senate, would mandate that the ADE follow more comprehensive reporting requirements that give taxpayers more information about how their dollars are being spent.