State House Minority Leader Andrés Cano (D-Tucson) made a tweet Tuesday, sharing a letter from the Arizona Department of Education (ADE), and used it to blast the Universal Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) Program.
In this letter, Christine Accurso, leader of the ESA program, detailed the department’s estimations that there will be around 100,000 students enrolled in the program by the end of fiscal year 2024, and that it will cost roughly $900,000,000 to fund these students.
“Without reform, Empowerment Scholarship Accounts will bankrupt our state & our public schools,” Cano (pictured above) tweeted in response to the letter.
BREAKING: The AZ Dept. of Education is predicting that the state's GOP taxpayer-funded private school voucher program will grow to 100,000 students in '24 at a whopping $900M per year!
Without reform, Empowerment Scholarship Accounts will bankrupt our state & our public… pic.twitter.com/bn4fiuNWBk
— Andrés Cano (@AndresCanoAZ) May 31, 2023
However, the image he shared of the letter only displayed about half of what was written. Other users on Twitter, such as Jennifer Wright, an elections attorney, were quick to point out the misrepresentation.
Accurso stated that many of the students enrolling in the ESA program are coming from public school, “which in the end saves the state money because the empowerment scholarship accounts are funded at a lower percentage than the state aid for a pupil in the public school system.”
This is what panicking looks like.👇🏼
👉🏼 The only thing in jeopardy of bankrupting is failing government schools. https://t.co/LVnkQ1a3Bj
— Jen Wright (@JenWEsq) May 31, 2023
As reported by The Arizona Sun Times, a recent study from the Common Sense Institute Arizona (CSIAZ) agrees with what Accurso stated. The institute predicted that ESA participation would quickly rise to over 100,000, but enrollment would start to slow, and there would be an estimated 124,000 participants by 2027. The research also expects public school enrollment to continue declining in the coming years. Because the ESA program provides students with 90 percent of what they would receive in a public school, the state would ultimately save money, not go bankrupt.
— Arizona Department of Education (@azedschools) May 31, 2023
Several State Republican Legislators, like Senator Anthony Kern (R-Glendale), also called out Cano for his post.
State Representative Jaqueline Parker (R-Mesa) also accused Cano of attempting to alter facts to further an anti-ESA narrative. In fact, Parker said that more money going to the ESA program is a good thing for the children of Arizona.
“This is GREAT! But not enough yet. $900 million is a drop in the bucket to the other $7+BILLION spent on the useless indoctrination camps that are ‘government schools.’ Until ESA’s are pulling at LEAST $5 Billion from government schools, our job is not yet finished,” Parker tweeted.
This is GREAT! But not enough yet. $900 million is a drop in the bucket to the other $7+BILLION spent on the useless indoctrination camps that are “government schools”. Until ESA’s are pulling at LEAST $5 Billion from government schools, our job is not yet finished. https://t.co/IFoomnj7A8
— Rep. Jacqueline Parker (@electjacqparker) May 31, 2023
The Sun Times contacted the house majority and minority caucuses for responses but did not hear back before press time.
Furthermore, the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute (GI), which helped create the universal ESA program, also released a post Wednesday, countering narratives against the ESA program. Arizona taxpayers currently pay $15 billion for public school funding annually. However, if the 100,000 predicted ESA students were enrolled in public school instead, the GI stated it would cost taxpayers well over a billion dollars, compared to the $900 million.
“The left’s war on school choice and parental rights will no doubt continue, but taxpayers and the public deserve better than the ongoing litany of recycled falsifications and half-truths from union-backed politicians and activist organizations. And perhaps most importantly, Arizona students deserve access to school choice programs like ESAs, charter schools, and district open enrollment—regardless of how much the education establishment might prefer otherwise,” wrote Matt Beienburg, GI director of Education Policy.
Providing more funding for students at a lower cost to taxpayers is a win-win, right?@arizona_sos and its leftwing echo chamber want you to shut off your brain and think the opposite.
— Goldwater Institute (@GoldwaterInst) May 31, 2023
As part of the new $18 billion bipartisan state budget recently signed by Governor Katie Hobbs (D), Republican lawmakers considered it a victory that none of the ESA program was rolled back. Before the budget was signed, House Democrats released a statement declaring they were disappointed the program was not restricted.
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