Governor’s Office Projects $320 Million Shortfall for ESA Vouchers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 25th, 2023

Contact: Tyler Kowch, 602-321-7290

tyler@sosarizona.org

Governor’s Office Projects $320 Million Shortfall for ESA Vouchers

The Governor’s office has thoroughly outlined the dire economic ramifications of ESA vouchers. According to the Arizona Office of Strategic Planning & Budgeting (OSPB), ESA vouchers are projected to cost taxpayers $943 million next year and are on track to bankrupt the state and defund our public schools. Worse yet, the AZ legislature has failed to budget a full $320 million for the voucher program. This shortfall will ultimately lead to slashed budgets for public schools, public safety, roads, and healthcare — which have already been cut to the bone.

Analysis from OSPB economists now confirms Save Our Schools Arizona’s assertion that universal voucher recipients do not “save the state money;” they incur an increased cost to the state General Fund compared to students in district schools. ESA funding is based on the state funding provided to charter schools, which is higher than the funding provided to district schools. In fact, more than half of ESA voucher funding represents a total new cost to the state from applicants previously enrolled in private school, homeschooling, or district schools that do not receive state aid. An analysis by the OSPB found that these new General Fund costs will total a shocking $518,947,400 in completely new spending next year. This half billion dollars in spending represents more than 50% of all new K12 spending in Arizona, despite the fact it benefits less than 8% of kids – while the other 1.1 million students are left with nearly the lowest per-student funding in the US. 

Unsurprisingly, this news comes as the Arizona Department of Education and ESA voucher department are in utter disarray. Superintendent Horne’s team has refused any levels of transparency for our taxpayer dollars; now, Attorney General Mayes has been forced to step in to warn Arizona families. In the wake of this investigation, Horne’s ESA Voucher Director Accurso and her top deputy have abruptly submitted their resignation, raising even more questions about ESA program management.

As Director Beth Lewis noted, “We are grateful to the Governor’s office and the OSPB for working towards accountability for this off-the-rails program. However, if the legislature does not work to roll back this entitlement program, Arizona’s public schools and our state economy are in serious jeopardy.”