“Put my kid’s education on my state debit card, please.”


by David Safier

Anybody see potential problems with this voucher payment system?

Arizona's "empowerment scholarships" legislation is a fast shuffle to get around the constitutional problems with vouchers by moving state money, which can't be used to fund religious education, into "savings accounts" for parents so they can spend it on their children's education at religious or non-religious private schools. They can also spend it on all kinds of educational "enrichment" items — tutoring, "educational therapy," AP and SAT tests, store-bought curriculum, you name it.

I never knew the state mechanism for getting the money into parents' hands. Now I do. Debit cards. The state issues a Bank of America debit card to parents, with more money put in quarterly, for them to spend on their kids' educations. What could possibly go wrong?

Some parents have bought things like gas for their cars — to transport their kids to school — and school uniforms. When the Dept of Ed finds an inappropriate expense, it adjusts the account accordingly.

The "empowerment scholarships" are the brainchild of the Goldwater Institute, which is putting together new legislation requiring random audits, a fraud reporting service and a fraud hotline.