$200M in Uncovered Costs for Universal ESA Vouchers
Ducey’s 2022 universal ESA voucher expansion is threatening to bankrupt the state. Last Friday, a report from the nonpartisan JLBC showed that the expansion has already racked up $200 million in entirely unbudgeted, uncovered costs, and projects these costs will balloon to $376 million by 2024.
Report Shows ESA Vouchers-for-All Could Bankrupt AZ
New reports show that Governor Ducey’s 2022 universal ESA voucher expansion is already threatening to bankrupt Arizona. Last Friday, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) released new projections on the voucher program’s cost which shows first-year cost estimates skyrocketed by 700% from their original estimate.
Irresponsibly, the Republican-led legislature passed the nation’s largest voucher program while completely failing to budget for these costs. The JLBC states that the expansion has already racked up $200 million in entirely unbudgeted costs, and projects these costs will balloon to $376 million by 2024. These amounts are still predicted to be conservative by many.
No, the Money Does Not “Follow the Child”
ESA voucher costs are unbudgeted because 80% of the families are not leaving public schools, but rather subsidizing private school or home education costs they have already been paying . In these cases, the money does not “follow the child,” since children in private schools and homeschool have not previously been allocated any public tax dollars.
Merging these entirely new costs with the pre-universal program means Arizona will be sending over $600 million per year to private schools and homeschools — amounting to $3 billion in taxpayer dollars over the next 5 years. Arizona public schools are currently ranked 47th in the nation in per-student spending, even with recent “historic” investments in K12 education.The irresponsible voucher expansion will further deplete funds that should be allocated to the schools that 92% of Arizona children attend.
AZ Voters & Governor Hobbs Want to Repeal Universal Vouchers
With virtually no accountability or transparency for these funds and the dramatic costs to local public schools, Arizona voters are rightfully questioning these expenditures and demanding the program be overturned. The legislature has refused to require even the most basic financial accountability for these public dollars, and lack of academic transparency means that educational results are a black box.
“Governor Hobbs is right to prioritize public education spending when Arizona’s schools remain 47th in the nation in per-student spending, even after recent investments,” said rural parent Nicky Indicavitch. “1 million children rely on our local schools, and the false choice of vouchers predominantly benefits higher-income students in the suburbs — at the expense of low-income and rural communities.”
The Arizona State Constitution requires the state to provide a public education to all students; it does not require the funding of private schools or home education. This Legislature must undo the harm last year’s legislature and Ducey caused, and repeal universal ESA vouchers before this unaccountable, wasteful program bankrupts our state and our schools.