Last week brought news that the Arizona Department of Education had inadvertently released the personal information of the nearly 7,000 families who make use of Empowerment Savings Accounts (ESA). And it’s not the first time the Department has mishandled the ESA program, a program that helps so many children—many of them with special needs—get the customized education they need to succeed.
On Monday, it was revealed that the Department released a spreadsheet that included the account balances of every ESA account in the state, along with the names, email addresses, and other personal information of the nearly 7,000 parents with ESA accounts. Not only was the spreadsheet containing the sensitive information sent to the Yellow Sheet Report, but it was also shared with Save Our Schools, a group that has been an outspoken opponent of ESAs.
Unfortunately, this latest epic fail on the part of the state Department of Education is part of a pattern of poor management of the ESA program. Earlier in January, the Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit challenging the Department of Education’s long delays in supplying needed funds to which ESA families are entitled—delays long enough to force parents to pay out of pocket for tutoring and teaching tools that their ESA should cover without the possibility of reimbursement. While requiring families to follow its ESA rules to the letter, the Department of Education’s handling of the ESA program has still resulted in unpredictable and arbitrary outcomes for families—for instance, some families have been rejected for certain ESA expenses while others have been approved for the very same expenses.
“Mistakes do happen, but I don’t think that’s good enough as an excuse. That doesn’t undo the damage, the harm to these families,” Goldwater Institute Director of Education Policy Matt Beienburg said of the privacy breach on KJZZ’s “The Show.” “These are families with deeply personal life circumstances, these are kids with special needs diagnoses, and this information is now essentially made available to be dragged out into the public.
“For the Department to have treated these families this way saying ‘we have zero tolerance for any misstep’ and to then make a massive blunder like this is really revealing.” You can listen to the full KJZZ interview with Beienburg here.
Ohio Breaks Down Barriers to Work for Military Families
Ohio took an important step forward last week to help military spouses get to work faster when they move into the state. On Monday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed legislation to remove regulatory barriers to work for military spouses relocating to the Buckeye State. With the signing of this bill, Ohio has become the latest state to recognize occupational licenses from other states—an idea born at the Goldwater Institute and achieved broadly by way of first-in-the-nation legislation passed in 2019.
“Ohio’s law recognizes that military families are particularly vulnerable to the harmful impacts of onerous licensing regulations,” Goldwater Institute Director of Strategic Engagement Heather Curry writes on In Defense of Liberty. “The average military family moves every two to three years, a reality which means many working spouses are required to re-license just as often. In many cases, the process to re-license in a new state is so costly and time-intensive that it disrupts careers permanently. Ohio’s new law addresses this issue by ensuring licensed professionals in good standing are able to apply for a license and be approved quickly. By honoring the time and effort already invested in an out-of-state license, this reform empowers military spouses to pursue their own version of the American Dream even as they support the important work of America’s service members.”
Ohio legislators are moving quickly to extend this type of licensing recognition to all Ohioans. Recently, the Buckeye Institute, Institute for Justice, and the Goldwater Institute recently joined legislators in Ohio in calling for the adoption of universal recognition. And Ohio isn’t the only state considering such reforms: Nine other states have introduced bills to recognize of out-of-state occupational licenses.
Miami Beach Drops the Ball on Home-Sharing
The Super Bowl comes to South Florida today, but despite the area’s long history of welcoming tourists, many homeowners in and around Miami will not be able to share their homes with visitors in town for the big game.
Goldwater Institute Senior Attorney Matt Miller writes on In Defense of Liberty that in Miami Beach, “the government has banned home-sharing in most areas of the city except for a few select carveouts. Not only that, but anyone who dares to rent their home to a Super Bowl visitor is subject to fines that start at $20,000 and quickly escalate to $100,000.” Hotels benefit from this limit on short-term rentals, while local homeowners and Miami Beach visitors lose. “[W]hile hotels are charging more than $500 per night, homeowners are prevented from economically benefitting from the Super Bowl. And visitors to the area are provided with fewer options,” Miller continues.
There is some good news, however: There are two efforts underway to help make things better for Florida homeowners. The Goldwater Institute is fighting Miami Beach’s home-sharing ban in court, and the Florida legislature is also considering a bill to strengthen property rights protections for homeowners. Read more about those efforts in Miller’s full post.