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.”

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