Governor Katie Hobbs Announces Plan for ESA Accountability and Transparency

News Release

January 2, 2024

Phoenix, AZ - Today, Governor Katie Hobbs announced her plan to increase accountability and transparency in the ESA voucher program that is projected to cost the state nearly $1 billion in the current fiscal year. The plan, which will be introduced in the upcoming legislative session and executive budget, will increase student safety, promote financial accountability, and hold private schools receiving taxpayer dollars to similar standards as public schools.

Governor Hobbs’ plan will increase transparency and accountability by:

  • Increasing Student Safety: just like public schools, educators at private schools that receive taxpayer dollars will be required to pass a fingerprint background check in order to provide instruction to ESA students. This common-sense measure ensures a safe learning environment for every student. 

  • Protecting Rights for Students with Disabilities: require private schools to provide accommodations and services in accordance with an ESA student’s Individualized Learning Plan or Section 504 Plan.

  • Requiring Accountability for Taxpayer Dollars: end spending on luxury expenses like ski passes and luxury car driving lessons, and require manual approval of purchases over $500 to ensure purchases are utilized for an academic purpose. 

  • Expanding Auditor General Authority: create audit authority for the Auditor General to monitor and report on how ESA voucher money is spent by private schools. This critical oversight mirrors practices at public schools.

  • Prohibiting Price Gouging: stop private schools receiving taxpayer dollars from hiking the cost of tuition and fees at a rate higher than inflation.

  • Raising Educational Standards: require private schools receiving taxpayer dollars to have minimum education requirements for classroom educators that provide instruction to ESA students. 

  • Establishing Program Transparency: require the Department of Education to disclose the parental and student rights that are relinquished when leaving the public school system for the ESA voucher program and report graduation and chronic absenteeism rates.

  • Reinstating Eligibility Requirements: students participating in the universal ESA voucher program must have attended a public school for 100 days at any point in their education prior to becoming eligible for the ESA voucher program. 

“The ESA program lacks accountability and transparency,” said Governor Katie Hobbs. “With this plan, we can keep students safe, protect taxpayer dollars, and give parents and students the information they need to make an informed choice about their education. Arizonans deserve to know their money is being spent on educating students, not on handouts to unaccountable schools and unvetted vendors for luxury spending. My plan is simple: every school receiving taxpayer dollars must have basic standards to show they’re keeping our students safe and giving Arizona children the education they deserve.”

“Legislative Democrats have been the most consistent advocates for student safety and success,” said Senate Democratic Leader Mitzi Epstein. “The Republican expansion of government to universal ESA vouchers has put our state’s financial security at risk, and our students at risk without any safeguards. We included the work that Democrats have done for years in developing this plan with Gov. Hobbs. These safeguard policies are common sense and vitally important to help children learn and to keep children safe.” 

“With all the issues and pressing needs we have as a state, Republicans knew that an unaccountable subsidy for private schools was more than our taxpayers can afford,” said House Democratic Leader Lupe Contreras. “This plan provides common-sense guardrails and fiscal responsibility that this program — that any taxpayer-funded program — should have.”