ESA Vouchers Are Putting Arizona Children At Risk

ESA Vouchers Are Putting Arizona Children At Risk

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 4th, 2023

Contact: Tyler Kowch, 602-321-7290

tyler@sosarizona.org 

ESA Vouchers Are Putting Arizona Children At Risk

Ten days ago, Arizona ESA voucher vendor and martial arts instructor Dyllon DePalma was arrested on accusations of sexual conduct with an underage teen student who attended his studio. According to ADE’s ESA marketplace Class Wallet, DePalma’s Team USA Martial Arts remains an approved ESA voucher vendor to this date, despite the owner’s recent arrest. The public has no knowledge as to how many taxpayer dollars have been received by DePalma, or how many underaged students have used an ESA voucher for his studio. 

ESA Vouchers Are Putting Arizona Children At Risk

Unlike public schools, the ESA voucher program has zero accountability measures to prevent bad actors from hurting children. Due to the legislature’s wide open and irresponsible universal ESA expansion passed last year, ESA vendors and tutors are not required to undergo any background checks, hold a fingerprint clearance card, or hold a state certification. Under Superintendent Horne’s new rules, the only requirement is that vendors and tutors submit a high school diploma.

Last year, when Republicans rammed the universal voucher bill HB2853 through in the eleventh hour of the legislative session with little debate or concern for student safety, Senator Marsh unsuccessfully introduced amendments to protect students via a fingerprint requirement. This legislative session, Marsh introduced SB1266 to require fingerprinting requirements for personnel at any school that accepts taxpayer funded ESA vouchers. Unfortunately, SB1266 did not even receive a hearing in the Education Committee. 

If Arizona’s legislators truly care about protecting children, they must immediately enact accountability policies to safeguard the students in the ESA voucher program.