By Daniel Stefanski |
An Arizona Democrat leader is receiving pushback for his selective cropping of a memo from the Arizona Department of Education.
On Tuesday, Christine Accurso, the Executive Director of the ESA Program for Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne’s administration, submitted “the annual estimate of the amount required to fund empowerment scholarship accounts” to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee for the 2024 fiscal year.
Accurso’s estimate concluded “that the projected enrollment by the end of Fiscal Year 2024 will be at 100,000 students with roughly $900,000,000 necessary to fund them.”
Andrés Cano, the Democrat Leader in the Arizona House of Representatives, tweeted out the memo – up until the point where Accurso shared the price tag of the program. He added. “without reform, Empowerment Scholarship Accounts will bankrupt our state & our public schools.”
Cano left out the last paragraph of the memo, where Accurso wrote: “We have made this projection with the help of our Chief Auditor, John Ward who conducted the analysis. It is important to note that we currently have 57,886 students in the program. For budgeting purposes, it is also important to note that many of the students that are enrolling now are coming from the public school system, 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.”
One of the top school choice advocates in the country, Corey DeAngelis, highlighted the omission from Cano, tweeting, “hey why did you cut off the end of the letter.” DeAngelis included an image of the entire memo.
He also asked, “how much would those same students cost in the government schools?”
Jason Bedrick, a Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, also weighed in, stating, “$900M is about 1% of the state’s $80.5 billion budget – and the ESA costs about half as much per pupil as the public school system. The sky isn’t falling.”
Grant Botma, a best-selling author also shared his thoughts on Cano’s charge, posting, “The Arizona Auditor General report shows the public school system spends $10,729 per pupil. The $900,000,000 divided by 100,000 from your image is $9000 per student. That is a $1,729 savings. How would that “bankrupt our state”?
Members from both sides of the political aisle at the Arizona Legislature quickly piled onto Cano’s controversial tweet. On the Republican side, Representative Jacqueline Parker commented, “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.”
Representative Joseph Chaplik tweeted, “Simply not true. Just like the state doesn’t fund K-12 enough. This same lie is getting old fast!”
On the Democrat side, Senator Priya Sundareshan wrote, “During the last few months we were getting estimates that the cost to the state of the universal voucher program had increased to $600M, instead of the $30M originally promised when they passed it last year. Now we see it has already grown to $900M. How high will it climb??”
Twitter provided a community note to provide context for Cano’s tweet: “Cano has cropped out the portion of the letter which explains how this program saves the state money. The cropped out portion directly counters his claim that this program will ‘bankrupt our state.’”
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.