Homeschooled ESA students are not given cash, but rather access to purchase approved materials from approved providers.  Once the agency approves an application, the state awards the family a digital bank account that can only be used for eligible educational expenses. Most states administer ESAs through the state Treasurer’s office, or through a private administrator. Typically, the only way to spend ESA dollars is to purchase through an approved provider. Approved providers thereby control a captive client list, which means that they can charge significantly more for the same products than when those products and services are purchased privately. 

What motive could lobbyists have for pushing the government to provide funds for homeschoolers? Who is behind the scenes lobbying to give homeschoolers money? Ask yourself who else benefits financially from homeschoolers being given public funding? Much out-of-state money has gone to lobbyists and policy groups hired to work toward passing ESA legislation in Idaho. ESA proponents are expecting a big pay-off! As homeschooling grows, the market for homeschooling curriculum and online classes grows, and those who provide these things have recognized the opportunity that arises through market growth, particularly when that market is funded through a government-run, single-payer system.   

No assistance program, public or private, is immune to financial fraud. With so many interests/fingers in the ESA pot, (parents, curriculum and service providers, school districts and administrative agencies, to name a few,) the opportunity for fraud increases. Consequently, those who participate should expect audits.

ESAs families usually receive a debit card to make their purchases, but some parents in Arizona have misused these cards. A 2018 audit by the Arizona Auditor General revealed the following misappropriations:

  • In all, auditors found more than $700,000 worth of transactions at unapproved retailers in fiscal year 2018, representing more than 900 transactions.The state failed to recover almost all of the money that was inappropriately spent.
  • Some parents pocketed the ESA money and sent their children to public schools.
  • Others bought materials using their state-issued debit cards and then immediately returned them and put the refunded money on gift cards.

An key Arizona Republican legislator, Bob Worsley, had this to say about their ESA program, “My guess is just that the (Republican) caucus — my caucus — has been, probably, overly enthusiastic about ESAs, and vouchers in general, and therefore anything that would … make it more difficult, it would not be a high priority for them,” said Worsley, of Mesa. “In our capacity, we should be making sure the taxpayer dollars are going for what taxpayers intended…”