After a long and bruising battle, voters in Arizona will have their first chance to vote on vouchers in November. Arizona has vouchers now for specific groups of students, but last year the legislature enacted an e passion that would make vouchers available to all. Arizona is beloved by ALEC, the Koch brothers, and the DeVos family due to its choice programs. After passage of voucher expansion, supporters of public schools gathered over 100,000 signatures calling for a referendum. The Koch brothers sent in lawyers to try to block the referendum (Prop 305), but the state courts ruled that it could go forward. Then the Koch operatives pushed the idea that the legislature should repeal and re-enact the voucher expansion law, which would force the opposition to start over. But, in the days after the mass protests of the #RedForEd movement, the legislature was unable to gather enough votes for repeal.

Why are the Koch brothers and Betsy DeVos’s American Federation for Childre so frightened of a referendum? Vouchers have lost every time they have been put to a vote.

How do vouchers work in Arizona?

This article, published a year ago, says that oversight of public money is nearly a sham.

“As the program expanded, resources to scrutinize the expenditures — made using state-provided debit cards — never kept pace. The Legislature gave the Department of Education money for the program butwouldn’t authorize spending much of it.

“The warnings of lax oversight and little accountability proved prescient. Money was misspent but the state recovered almost none of it.

“For example, some parents transferred all of their scholarship money into a 529 college-savings account and then left the program — preventing the state from recouping the funds.

“Others pocketed the money and sent their kids to public schools.

“Some purchased books or other materials using their state-issued debit cards and then immediately returned them. The refunded money was put on gift cards, allowing parents to spend it with no scrutiny.

“And despite the Legislature’s vehement opposition to public money paying for abortions, the ESA program became one of the only state programs to allegedly fund the procedure. In 2014, payment to a health clinic led education officials to believe ESA money had been spent on an abortion.

“These illegal expenditures of taxpayer money have sparked little outrage and no widespread calls for changes from either the Governor’s Office or the Legislature.

“State leaders’ apathy is in stark contrast to their condemnation of and crackdown on abuse of social-welfare programs. Arizona has in recent years implemented among the nation’s most restrictive rules for lower-income recipients of cash assistance.

“Chris Kotterman, lobbyist for the Arizona School Boards Association, said that “double standard” reflects the special status Republican state leaders afford school-choice programs.

““Private-school choice is much more favored than cash assistance to the poor,” Kotterman said. “If it’s a welfare program, then strict accountability is necessary … On the school-choice side, there’s an inherent assumption that parents, no matter what, are able to make the best choices and the government should get out of the way.”