Transparency & Accountability: HB2022

Transparency & Accountability: HB2022

The level of misinformation in the media today regarding HB2022 is stunning. For a bill designed to address the complaints of both sides of the political spectrum, as well as ESA watchdogs, one would think that more rigorous oversight might have been welcomed. However, the addicted to outrage crowd has sought to posit a fallacious argument that the proposal somehow violates the will of Arizona voters who voted down Proposition 305 in the last election. I do not believe for a moment that Arizona voters said they don’t want more accountability and transparency. That is an absurd position and frankly, indefensible. The proposal does nothing more than move an accounting and payments handling function from the Department of Education to the State Treasury, where it should have been in the first place.

FACT: The processing of payments for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA’s) is currently falls under the authority of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The mission of the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) [led by the Superintendent of Public Education} is, “The mission of the Arizona Department of Education is to serve Arizona’s education community, ensuring every child has access to an excellent education,” (ADE 2019). There is no mention in the mission of the ADE to engage in an accounting function, yet for years it has.

FACT: “The State Treasurer also serves as Arizona’s Banker. While not a bank itself, the Treasurer’s Office directs all state banking services, executes all state payments, and manages the state’s cash flow. As a protection for taxpayer money, the State Treasurer maintains a separate accounting system to provide a check and balance on the state accounting system and distributes investment earnings to the proper funds. The Treasury contracts with Arizona banks to process the state’s receipts and disbursements, money and security transfers, payment activity, and related banking services,” (AZT, 2019).

FACT: For several years, school funding watchdogs have demanded greater transparency and accountability where ESA’s are concerned. Stories of inappropriate expenditures and misuse of tax dollars for questionable items remotely linked to education have been newsworthy. Kwok (2017) wrote, “the power brokers behind vouchers should fix what are very correctable problems with oversight of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts expenditures,” and he went on to say, “Republic reporters Rob O’Dell and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez made the case. They found that audits required by law could not be produced, data are incomplete or inaccessible, records identifying those who abused the program before 2014 aren’t available and the office charged with scrutinizing the dispersed money isn’t fully staffed,” (Kwok, 2017). From a public policy perspective, transparency and accountability are always on my mind as a priority.

Some in the media have suggested that HB2022 is an attempt to disregard what the voters had to say on Proposition 305, which was a bill to increase ESA availability to many more parents with children who want greater options, and that the defeat of the Proposition is voter protected. If that were the case, every topic in every proposition that ever failed on a vote of the people would be voter protected. How can something that has not been passed into law be voter protected?

References:

ADE (2019). Mission Statement, Arizona Department of Public Education. http://www.azed.gov/adeinfo/

AZT (2019). About the Treasurer’s Office, Arizona Department of the Treasury. https://aztreasury.gov/what-we-do-2/

Kwok, A., (2017). If you like vouchers, defend them the right way, Arizona Republic, Phoenix, AZ. https://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/abekwok/2017/07/06/like-arizona-vouchers-defend-them-right-way/453773001/

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