It is no secret that Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman is no fan of the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program. Throughout the 2018 campaign season, Hoffman was on record taking hostile positions against the school choice program.
Now she has allowed her personal biases to harm children and skirt the law.
Arizona law defines the criteria for children who qualify for the ESA program as well as outlines the process by which the Department of Education must administer the program – including a 45-day deadline for processing applications.
With several ESA families in recent months shedding light on their own mistreatment by the department, it is unclear how many of the over 5,000 children have fallen victim to the Hoffman bias.
Just last spring a group of students on the Navajo Reservation were found to be using their ESA funds to attend a school in the state of New Mexico. With nothing but poor failing schools in proximity to the children, the NM school was the only viable educational option. Instead of seeking a remedy to the issue, these families were being expected to pay back thousands of dollars to the state. Luckily the Governor’s office and the legislature passed a one-year fix for the native American families.
Only a couple months after this debacle, a military family was denied eligibility, citing the stepmom who was the active military person, was not the child’s real mother. Despite the biological mom being deceased and the veteran stepmom having legal guardianship. After a firestorm of criticism followed, Hoffman’s administration reversed the decision. This was more than shoddy legal interpretation of the statutory eligibility – this was prejudicial.
Most recently still, a Gilbert mom of a child with specific learning disabilities has called out the department of their willful incompetence after spending much of the summer on hold for hours and never receiving a response. Even after this mom and her son confronted Hoffman at an ADE meeting, requesting a phone call back, a month later no phone call was received. This family has been apart of the program for 5 years and has never had trouble in the past with communication.
This last issue was the straw that broke the camel’s back, leading GOP lawmaker Mark Finchem (LD 11) to file a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General’s office requesting they investigate the department’s mishandling of ESA applications and failing to process them within the 45-day window.
It seems nothing will overshadow Superintendent Hoffman’s bias toward the ESA program. Not the law. Not children in vulnerable rural reservations. Not children of our military. Not children with learning disabilities.
For the sake of these families who rely on the ESA program to access the educational options that serve their children best – the legislature would be wise to remove the program from her administration. After all, if Hoffman can’t and won’t administer the statutory program impartially and in full service to Arizona families – someone else should.