Arizona ESA Momma Bear Mauls Arizona Republic in LTE

June 29, 2017

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)


I’ll give the Republic credit for running the letter, but totally agree with Mrs. Visser.


Texas Implemented a special ed cap, AZ implemented an ESA for special education children. Guess what happened next.

May 15, 2017

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The Raise Your Hand Texas group has released a white paper opposing an ESA program for special needs students in the Lone Star State. It is alas replete with boiler-plate nostrums etc. but if private choice is terrible for children with disabilities attending district schools, you have an awfully hard time finding evidence for it in the NAEP. We can get NAEP trends for children with disabilities on all six NAEP exams for the 2009 to 2015 period. The Arizona legislature passed a private choice tax credit for special needs children in 2009, and followed that up with the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program in 2011.

Texas meanwhile during this period had the Texas Education Agency implementing a defacto cap on the number of special needs students in districts, without the slightest apparent protest from Texas districts, who implemented the program quite effectively. Ah, well, at least those Texas districts should have been doing a better job delivering special ed students for the children with disabilities they served, right?


Arizona authorities decided to expand options and increase freedom. As you can see, Arizona students with disabilities have demonstrated academic progress much better than the nation as a whole, which has either been treading water or actually declining. This looks pretty bad until you examine the scores for Texas students with disabilities, which are not only consistently worse, but which failed to show improvement in any of the six subjects covered by NAEP.

These trends obviously have factors other than choice which impact them, but if the theory is that ESAs are terrible for children with disabilities in public schools, we can reject the hypothesis. Texas has a special education disaster on its hands, while Arizona is making progress far and away above the national average. No student group has more to gain from choice than children with disabilities- including those who choose to remain in districts.


WSJ on ESA and Jordan Visser

April 17, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The Wall Street Journal has a news story on the Arizona Empowerment Accounts program today. Notice especially the intellectual incoherence of the Scottsdale official trying to explain how it hurts the finances of the district to lose special needs students:

School districts say that even though state funding doesn’t cover the costs of special-needs students, they don’t necessarily save that money if a student leaves the district. The Scottsdale district says it pays about $10 million to $12 million more than it gets from the state and federal government to educate its special-needs students.

“If every student with special needs left, then maybe we would save that $12 million, but at the same time, it’s pretty implausible,” said Daniel O’Brien, chief financial officer of the Scottsdale district. He added that the schools would still have students with all kinds of other needs who may not qualify for ESAs, and they would still need to educate those students.

Did you follow that?  Scottsdale says that they use $10m to $12m in general education funds above and beyond what it receives in state and federal funding for special needs children.  I certainly agree that it is utterly implausible that all special needs students will choose to leave the Scottsdale district, but that whole line of thought misses the most important point: if a child leaves with their “inadequate funding” then you have no cause to cry about it.  You still have the $10m to $12m in the bank- now you just have more options with what to do with some of it- you might want to spend more on your remaining special needs kids, you may want to do a slightly smaller transfer from general ed to special ed, but either way the district wins.

Notice also that 90% of what the Scottsdale Unified would have received for Jordan Visser seems to be serving his needs quite well.

For the past three years, Ms. Visser has educated her son, Jordan, who has cerebral palsy, at their Scottsdale, Ariz., home. He has a packed schedule of one-on-one instructional sessions with a specialist, physical-education classes, music lessons, horse-riding therapy and other programs—all of which she pays for through a state-funded program informally known as the “education debit card.”


Arizona ESA Prevails in Court

March 21, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The Arizona Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program, allowing an outstanding Appellate Court decision to stand as binding precedent.

Congratulations to the crack legal eagles at the Goldwater Institute and the Institute for Justice and the State of Arizona for winning the case. It has been a great blessing to work with so many dedicated lawmakers, colleagues, parents and donors in Arizona and across the country that helped to bring this program to life.

To Senator Blaine, the Know Nothings, the KKK and anyone else involved in writing bigoted anti-Catholic language into the Arizona Constitution eat your hearts out. This is a small but crucial victory in a larger struggle against your disgusting legacy.

Most of all congratulations to the participating parents. Their stories can bring even the stoic to tears.  The program upon which your family depends is safe from court assault now. Thank you for your unyielding support!

Elephants are Afraid of Mice, Giant Public School Establishments are Terrified of Small Choice Programs

February 16, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

We had a bit of a fauxtroversy here in Arizona last week as some quarters got riled up over Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal’s decision to record a message for parents whose children attend D/F rated Arizona schools about the Empowerment Scholarship Account program.  Superintendent Huppenthal serves as the legally designated administrator of the ESA program- it is quite a shock that he might work with private groups to raise awareness of the program.  Quelle horreur!  This is surely going to lead to the destruction of public education in Arizona right?

Elephants are afraid of mice

Well, no actually not so much.  More on the NBC news show Sunday Square Off:

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