July 16, 2020
By Matt Beienburg

Below is the text of Goldwater Institute Director of Healthcare Policy Matt Beienburg’s testimony before the Arizona State Board of Education Empowerment Scholarship Account Rulemaking Hearing from earlier this week. You can read more about the positive effects of the ESA program on parents and students here, and learn how the Goldwater Institute is standing up for ESA families here.

Good afternoon, I would like to thank the State Board of Education and the staff for the thoughtful process you have undertaken to develop the ESA program rules, particularly, for convening opportunities like today–and the survey efforts you have organized—for parents to contribute to that process.

For the sake of brevity, I would simply echo the sentiments that have been shared already and request that the rulemaking process continues to prioritize—within statute—the needs of the parents and children participating in the program.

As has been mentioned, the Auditor General has found that nearly a quarter of customer service calls between ADE and ESA parents have involved staff providing “poor quality information” including giving incorrect guidance about what items constitute allowable expenses.

In light of that, we would strongly encourage the board to ensure protections for parents who may in good faith struggle to navigate the program’s rules.

In particular, for example, for parents who repay ESA expenses that are deemed disallowed but which were clearly made in good faith, that they have the opportunity to repay those funds and have those amounts credited back to their ESA account, rather than being punished with paying twice for the item, once out of pocket, and once out of their ESA account.

Again, thank you very much to the members and to the staff for the work and thoughtful consideration you are giving to this program and the students and families it serves.

Matt Beienburg is the Director of Education Policy at the Goldwater Institute.

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