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Public dollars allocated for education should be spent on teacher and administrator salaries, building maintenance, healthy meals for students, and other costs necessary to ensure that all students thrive. Taxpayer dollars should not fund ski passes, golf equipment, and lessons on how to drive a luxury car that cost more than $800 per session. It may seem absurd to suggest that public education dollars could go toward extravagant expenses like these, but in fact they are totally allowable under universal Arizona’s voucher program. And Arizona isn’t unique: In Florida, taxpayer dollars set aside for school vouchers have paid for kayaks and Disney tickets. The lack of accountability and failings of these voucher programs should offer a cautionary tale to the rest of the country, especially as the number of states approving expensive universal voucher programs continues to grow.

Excessive and unnecessary taxpayer costs are an example of the dangers of private school vouchers, especially when there are few restrictions on how this money can be spent. Vouchers also have the potential to be extremely destructive to state budgets, a situation that Arizona now faces. The Arizona Legislature’s budget analysts expect the deficit to grow from $400 million to $835 million this year, largely as a result of the voucher program.

Arizona’s governor has proposed that students be required to attend public school for 100 days before being eligible for private school vouchers. In Arizona, as well as in Missouri and Wisconsin, 70 to 80% of students using private school vouchers already attend a private school. The governor’s proposal would reduce costs of the voucher program by an estimated $244 million next year. If no changes are made, Arizona’s voucher program will cost $822 million next year. Nonetheless, opponents have slammed the proposal. The Senate Appropriations Committee chair called the proposal “too extreme” and emphasized that it is “alienating” members.

Republicans: Arizona Republicans have expressed frustration with the excessive government spending and lack of accountability in Arizona’s voucher program. Republican campaign consultant and lobbyist Chuck Coughlin said he was unsure the government would exercise sufficient oversight of the voucher program, saying the “infrastructure just isn’t there.” A former Republican candidate, Christine Jones,  said “Anything that spends money that comes from taxpayers matters, especially to Republicans… The thing we should be focusing on is fraud… I think as we look at spending hundreds of millions of dollars on anything, we have to have some integrity in the process.”

Parents: Parents have also rebelled against the lack of transparency around how the voucher program is using their tax dollars. A study committee of ESA governance included backlash from public school advocates. Rachel Mamani, a special education teacher in a public middle school and mother of two, said that one of her children was not accepted into a private school because of his disabilities. She emphasized the need for enhanced inclusivity and said she knows other parents of special education students in the ESA program who are unable to find schools that will accept their children.

Save Our Schools Arizona is a community-based organization fighting for strong public schools in the state. They publish a weekly education report that contains a section sharing research on ESA vouchers.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the disassociation of religion and religious organizations from government. The group offers information and resources that outline the problems around vouchers.