Hoffman’s Neglect Left Nearly 25,000 ESA Requests From Parents, Schools, And Tutors Unanswered

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Former Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman made it clear that she had no love for Arizona’s school choice program, so it likely came as no surprise to the new Tom Horne administration that the Empowerment Scholarship Account program he inherited from her office was in shambles.

Newly-elected Superintendent of Public Instruction Horne and his staff at the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) wasted no time putting the program back in order.

This week, Horne announced that the ADE has approved 24,366 delayed requests from parents seeking to participate in the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program. Approval was also given for payments to schools and tutors who were owed a total of $22,234,151.48 going back to the second fiscal quarter of 2022.

LISTEN TO HORNE DISCUSS THE SCHOOL CHOICE PROGRAM NEGLECT

The ADE also paid more than 1,500 tutors who had gone months without a paycheck and paid a small school that had explored getting a bank loan to cover expenses because their state payments had been delayed.

“When I took office, the commitment I made is that the Arizona Department of Education is a service organization committed to raising academic outcomes and empowering parents. On my first day on the job, I demonstrated my resolve to fulfill that mission. Delays and inefficiencies of this kind are unacceptable and won’t be repeated,” Superintendent Tom Horne said.

According to AZ Free News, “Although the Arizona legislature approved 52 positions to run the ESA Program, there were only 17 on the scene” when Horne’s team stepped in.

The ADE is also announcing that the ESA customer service phone lines at 602-364-1969 are now staffed every business day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. as opposed to the previously limited schedule of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The department is also preparing to hire more staff out of the state legislature’s specific appropriation for ESAs to fill positions and serve customers more rapidly.

Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma, who authored the ESA bill, thanked Horne for his efforts. “I appreciate Superintendent Horne prioritizing the needs of Arizona parents and school kids, and repairing the damage done by the former superintendent. Through his actions, he is demonstrating a shared commitment to the Legislature’s goal of increased options and quality for our K – 12 students.”

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