(Guest Post by Jason Bedrick)
An article in the Texas Tribune regarding the push for education savings accounts contained an incredible whopper from the state teachers’ union lobbyist:
Monty Exter, a lobbyist for the Association of Texas Professional Educators, said education savings accounts are worse than vouchers because there is no good way to control how parents spend the money. The states that have implemented such programs have included no provisions that allow them to reclaim money if parents spend it on “a flatscreen TV or a bag of crack,” he said.
“Who’s to say that a laptop isn’t an educational expenditure, but who’s to say that it is? Who is going to police that?” he said. “Are we going to pay someone at the state level to monitor this program, and how much is that going to cost?”
Frankly, he should be embarrassed to be peddling a lie that is so easily debunked.
*All* of the existing ESA laws in Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Nevada, and Tennessee contain financial accountability provisions to ensure that parents are spending the ESA funds only on approved educational expenses, which are clearly defined in law.
Like any government program (e.g., district schools), there is bound to be some amount of fraud. Fortunately, due to the tight financial controls, Arizona (the first state to enact an ESA law) has been able to recover misspent ESA funds. Moreover, an independent auditor recently determined than less than one percent of Arizona’s ESA funds were misspent, as the Goldwater Institute reports:
Last year, the state deposited nearly $26 million in families’ education savings accounts. The auditor uncovered misspending that totaled less than 0.8 percent of the distributed funds—an unacceptable amount, because any fraud involving taxpayer money and children is unacceptable. But it’s a manageable amount. The department of education should follow through on the auditor’s recommendations, as the agency stated it would in its response letter, and continue to improve the ways parents and students find quality learning opportunities with education savings accounts.
Arizona parents have spent more than 99% of ESA funds on approved educational products and services, and 100% of ESA parents surveyed in 2013 reported being satisfied with their child’s education.
The Texas teachers’ union needs a new talking point.