Thursday, November 29, 2012

Strong Push for Accountability in Arizona School Choice Program

When Arizona enacted the nation’s first-ever education savings account program in 2011, parents and advocates celebrated another educational choice option for parents of children with special learning needs.

Now that the program has been greatly expanded this year to include children in failing public schools, children of military personnel, and children who are or have been in foster care—that’s an increase of hundreds of thousands of students students in the state who are eligible to participate in the program—both the state legislatures and other educational choice advocates are working to increase accountability measures in the program.

Under the original law, the program met two of eight accountability checks. The Alliance for School Choice measures the level of accountability in programs, and the program originally qualified in the following areas:

  • Administrative: schools who accept a student using an ESA account must not discriminate
  • Financial: allow the state to conduct annual audits via a random sample
 The Arizona Department of Education and the Goldwater Institute are working to increase accountability measures in the program—a positive step forward for the program.

The Goldwater Institute is pushing for legislation that would allow the Department of Education to conduct random quarterly and yearly reviews of accounts, establishing online and hotline fraud reporting services, and establishing a surety bond or insurance for account holders.

Under the program, several participating families were contacted by the state regarding misuse of funds.  The Department reports, according to the Arizona Capitol Times, that the majority of cases were misunderstandings and were corrected after being contacted by the state.  The Arizona Attorney General’s Office is investigating two cases of alleged fraud.

For more updates on accountability changes in private school choice programs, read the 2012 Private School Choice Accountability Update factsheet.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

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