(The Center Square) – The Arizona Department of Education may soon be required to create a quarterly report about the Empowerment Scholarship Account program.
Senate Bill 1706 was introduced by Sen. Christine Marsh and other Democrats, and it passed the Senate Education Committee on 4-3.
Republican Sen. Ken Bennett, who’s the committee chairman, voted in favor, but his fellow Republican Sens. Steve Kaiser, Sine Kerr, and Justine Wadsack voted against.
“I have very high confidence that Senator Marsh’s intentions are just to have information and accountability about a fast-growing program, I think that’s the interest of the department as well,” Bennett said Wednesday in committee, adding that the department already reports some of the proposed requirements.
“I just would not want to open any backdoor for people to try to cause problems with the program,” he added.
Despite his vote, he and the other Republicans said that they want to make sure that it does not make it to the floor for a vote.
“I will be working hard to make sure this does not hit the floor,” Kaiser said.
The report would ask for information about the number of applications, including if they were approved or turned down, the number of students that “qualified,”; and “the annual award amount” for each student.
“I think that any reporting that we do, we should ask if we did the same reporting in the government schools. If we’re not, let’s do it there first, and see how it goes,” activist Merissa Hamilton said in the committee hearing in opposition to the bill.
In addition, the report would also see if a student pulled away from the ESA program, the “type of expense” that the scholarship is used for, and a “percentage” of schools that take the scholarship are “accredited.” Many Democrats, including Gov. Katie Hobbs, have vocally opposed the ESA program, arguing that it would hurt funding for public schools.