State data does poor job of tracking private school aid

Public records attorney ‘shocked’

By Rob O’Dell and Yvonne Wingett | The Republic

Thursday night, shortly before the deciding votes were cast to expand the state’s school-voucher program, state Sen. Debbie Lesko talked optimistically about its future impact.

Allowing more students to tap taxpayer funds for private schooling or other education programs “will just provide one more option for parents to improve education for their child,” said Lesko, RPeoria and a sponsor of the legislation.

But it will be difficult, if not impossible, to track the increased spending and any academic improvement as the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Account grows from about 5,500 students to 30,000 over the next five years.

The reasons can be found in the level of program oversight by the Arizona Department of Education, as well as the expansion bill itself. The Education Department’s tracking of money distributed to private schools, as revealed in data provided to The Arizona Republic and azcentral .com last week, is opaque, incomplete and riddled with errors.

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