Well, the proof is out.
The financial disaster that the ill-advised and unaccountable Empowerment Scholarship Account (E.S.A.) expansion that public school educator advocates, sane policy experts, and informed media outlets predicted would drain state coffers and benefit (by a great margin) rich families has become a reality.
In reporting from Mary Jo Pitzel at AZ Central, the actual enrollment figures of families (again mostly upper-class families looking to game the system) and subsequent costs to the Arizona taxpayer (the great majority of whom can not afford a private school tuition even with an E.S.A. scholarship,) have exceeded forecasts by a factor of ten to the tune of about $376 million.
That is funding that could have helped public schools where the state, thanks in large part to anti-public school zealots at the State Legislature, is ranked at the bottom of the nation for education funding.
It could have gone to expanding KidsCare for poor children or improved health care for impoverished pregnant women.
It could have helped those in need of housing assistance.
In other words, assisting the people in the Grand Canyon State who really need the help.
Of course, the Republicans who passed this measure, put no mechanism in the legislation to pay for it.
So much for being the party of fiscal responsibility.
Reaction to the latest ESA estimates and costs from leading Democrats share the same universal theme: ESA expansion is a rich person’s scam that does not help the people who really need it and can cripple the state financially.
We have a constitutional responsibility to fund our public schools. If we continue down the current path, we will not be able to fulfill that responsibility. That's why my budget called for a rollback of the ESA program to ensure Arizona has a sustainable https://t.co/JnVBGtxuvl…
— Governor Katie Hobbs (@GovernorHobbs) March 22, 2023
ESA Voucher expansion was estimated to cost only $30 mil. Actual cost $376 mil and growing.
It's a budget buster.
And it mostly benefits families that already could afford private schools.#Equity Matters https://t.co/f7zse9qbel
— Sen. Mitzi Epstein (@MitziEpstein) March 23, 2023
Reminder that it's not "school choice," but the school's choice on kids they accept.
"…families who already have their kids in private schools will have a big chunk of their children’s tuition paid for by working class families with students in struggling public schools." https://t.co/Cy8IR7oQa8
— Senator Christine Marsh (@ChristinePMarsh) March 23, 2023
In an interview with NBC’s Bram Resnik, State Representative Laura Terech echoed the others, saying this expansion is “blowing an enormous hole in our budget…That will absolutely be a problem. Not just for our public education system but for all the other priorities that we all want to work on as a state: affordable housing…”
We break down the future of school vouchers that former Gov. Doug Ducey left without certain continued funding.
— 12 News (@12News) March 21, 2023
Again, people that know about public policy (including the reactionary private school advocates that passed the law on a party-line vote) were aware that ESA expansion was poor legislation, reflective of bad governance, designed to only help those that do not need the assistance.
It is time to repeal this measure before it does additional fiscal harm to the state and programs that actually help deserving constituents.