ESA debit cards to be canceled for Arizona parents who improperly use them, Horne says

Mar 9, 2023, 4:25 AM | Updated: 6:05 am

(Arizona Department of Education Photo)...

(Arizona Department of Education Photo)

(Arizona Department of Education Photo)

PHOENIX — Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said Wednesday he wants to crack down on parents improperly using funding under the Empowerment Scholarship Account program.

For Horne, a supporter of the ESA program, that means canceling debit cards when parents are caught making invalid purchases, he told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Wednesday.

A recent letter from Horne’s office to ESA parents and the State Board of Education said 750 cards out of 47,000 in use will be canceled next week for being out of compliance.

“They [parents] spend the money, and they’re supposed to send us receipts. So if they abuse it, it’s hard for us to control,” Horne, a Republican, said.

“So we’re trying to limit debit cards. Those who have them who have used them properly will keep them, but if they have not sent in the receipts within the deadline or if they abuse them, those debits cards are canceled.”

Enrolled families who lose debit card access can still use one of the program’s three other funding methods.

The ESA system allows parents who choose not to use the public schools system to receive taxpayer dollars on private school tuition and other qualified educational expenses. All Arizona K-12 students became eligible under the universal expansion signed by then-Gov. Doug Ducey last year.

But the growth of the program has caused issues with the funding process.

“With how quickly this program is growing, it is simply impossible to continue in the same way and make payments in a reasonable time,” the letter to the State Board of Education says.

Another problem, Horne said, is that his predecessor, Democrat Kathy Hoffman, was lax in enforcing which expenses qualified for the program.

“The prior administration was unfriendly to ESA’s … so they let people abuse it. People got paid for stoves, restaurants, all kinds of things,” Horne said.

“I want to make the program work and in order to make the program work, we have to enforce the rules that only valid educational expenses are going to be paid, and so we’re cracking down on that.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

An Apache group that has fought to protect land it considers sacred from a copper mining project in...

Associated Press

A US appeals court ruling could allow mine development in central Arizona on land sacred to Apaches

An Apache group that has fought to protect land from a copper mining project in central Arizona suffered a significant blow.

56 minutes ago

A Phoenix Police SUV with lights on at a crime scene at night...

Phoenix police arrest 2 suspects linked to home burglary

Phoenix law enforcement arrested two suspects after a break-in on Saturday evening near 43rd Avenue and Northern Avenue.

4 hours ago

File photo of crime scene tape in Phoenix...

David Veenstra

Police investigating fatal hit-and-run collision in north Phoenix

Police are investigating a fatal hit-and-run collision that killed a female pedestrian in north Phoenix on Saturday.

6 hours ago

A man died after a motorcycle crash early Sunday morning in Desert View Village. (MCSO Photo)...

David Veenstra

Motorcyclist dead after crash in Desert View Village, near Cave Creek

A man died after a motorcycle crash early Sunday morning in Desert View Village, near Cave Creek, according to authorities.

7 hours ago

World's Biggest Bounce House (XL Event Lab photo)...

Damon Allred

World’s Largest Bounce House coming to Phoenix for weekend stop on nationwide tour

The Big Bounce America is bringing its coterie of inflatable attractions to Phoenix this weekend, featuring eight inflatables.

8 hours ago

Singer Matt Shultz of Cage the Elephant performs onstage during day two of the 2021 Pilgrimage Musi...

Damon Allred

Grammy-winning Cage The Elephant announces Phoenix stop during North American tour

Grammy Award-winning rock band Cage The Elephant announced a stop in Phoenix on its upcoming summer tour in conjunction with a new album.

8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.


Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

ESA debit cards to be canceled for Arizona parents who improperly use them, Horne says