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
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
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
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.
Today the Arizona Free Enterprise
Club has released a study examining the speculative claims made by Valley Metro
that light rail has spurred $11 Billion in economic development.
Authored by transportation
policy expert Randal O’Toole, “Valley Metro Light Rail
Economic Development Claims Fall Flat” examines the 344 developments the
transit agency cites as economic development attributable to light rail.
report shows that the vast majority of these projects would have happened
anyway, happened only because they were subsidized or were government buildings
and that the cost of rail construction exceeded any actual economic development
created by light rail.
are several examples of projects cited in Valley Metro’s economic development report
that have no reasonable connection to light rail, including:
- Two QuikTrip Gas
- A Car Wash
- The Tesla Car Dealership
- Several Parking Garages
- Maricopa County Sheriff
- The Phoenix Police
- The Arizona Department
of Child Safety Building
- Renovations at Manzanita
Hall and other ASU student Housing
- The Renovations at the
metro included billions worth of projects that were heavily subsidized, were
government funded, or were more than ½ mile from a light rail stop:
projects worth $3.8 Billion received a subsidy–either a GPLET (Government
Property Lease Excise Tax) property tax abatement, a lease-back of ASU property
which advantaged the property with a property tax abatement, affordable housing
tax credits, or another type of subsidy;
projects worth $2.1 Billion were government buildings;
projects worth $2.7 Billion were Arizona State University buildings such as the
remodeling of Sun Devil Stadium;
projects worth $317 Million that were located more than a half mile from the
light rail station and 2 projects worth $61 Million of developments built
before light rail was.
removing these unrelated and subsidized projects, what you are left with is
less than $2 Billion of development that likely would have been built anyways,”
said Aimee Yentes, Vice President of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club. She continued, “furthermore, light rail has
cost taxpayers over $2 Billion to build and nowhere in Valley Metro’s analysis
do they include the detrimental effects light rail construction has had in
displacing or shuttering small businesses along the construction of the
line. The juice just hasn’t been worth
“Virtually every project on Valley Metro’s
list would have been built somewhere in the Phoenix metropolitan area without
light rail,” says Randal O’Toole the study’s author. “In fact, considering light rail fares only
cover 28 percent of the costs of operations and maintenance, it is hard to
classify light rail as a ‘productive investment’.”
study can be accessed HERE.
Yesterday when the City of
Phoenix and Valley Metro announced that they had received a grant from the
Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for the South Phoenix light rail extension,
they did not disclose to taxpayers that the projected cost to build the line
has nearly DOUBLED—from $700 million to $1.35 Billion dollars. At $245 Million per mile, the South Phoenix
line is now one of the most expensive light rail extensions in the country.
“It is amazing that no one in
City Hall or Valley Metro notified the public of these rampant cost overruns,”
said Scot Mussi, President of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club. “The scariest
part for taxpayers is that they haven’t even broke ground on the project, so
the price tag will likely go even higher before they are finished.”
To pay for the ballooning cost of
the extension, Phoenix taxpayers are on the hook for $540 million, up from $195
million in 2018. “Neither Phoenix or Valley Metro have explained how they are
going to pay for this, or what happens when the cost goes even higher,” Mussi
Continued. “Taxpayers have a right to know what roadway projects will be
cancelled to fund this boondoggle.”
This isn’t the first time Valley
Metro has been forced to revise the projected cost for the South Phoenix
extension. In November of 2015, Valley Metro estimated the capitol cost for the
project to be no more than $530 Million Dollars.
In August, Phoenix residents will
have the opportunity to vote on Proposition 105, which would stop the expansion
of the South Phoenix line and divert those funds to other needed roadway and
transportation improvements. “With light rail costs spiraling out of control,
voters would be wise to stop the bleeding before it is too late.” Mussi said.
The 2015 cost estimate for the South Phoenix project can be viewed HERE. The most recent cost estimate for the South Phoenix project can be viewed HERE.
The City of Phoenix has been
living beyond their means for way too long.
Their fiscal irresponsibility has led to a crushing $5.7 Billion in unfunded
pension debt and no real plan on how to pay it off or honor their commitments
to current or future retirees.
The City of Phoenix Employees’
Retirement System (COPERS), the retirement plan for general employees excluding
sworn police and fire personnel, is woefully underfunded. The City contributed less than $30M a year to
COPERS in the early 2000’s; this is expected to balloon to over $180M by next
year. Yet these payments still won’t put a dent in
the mountain of debt. As of only two
years ago, the fund was only 57 percent funded – having $2.35B in assets to
cover $4.13B in liabilities.
Despite several propositions
passing in the past to right the ship – Phoenix is still severely
underwater. That is because the city has
a major spending problem. And instead of
addressing this problem, politicians have continued to kick the can down the
road, using accounting tricks and other sneaky maneuvers to avoid addressing
That is why a group of citizens
and Councilman Sal DiCiccio has pushed to get Prop 106 on the August 27th
ballot. If approved by voters, this measure will end the budget gimmicks,
require honest accounting of pension costs and prioritize paying down the debt
of the pension system. The measure will also prohibit the city’s budget from outpacing
inflation plus population and put a cap on spending until pension liabilities
are funded at 90 percent.
This will put the city’s
pension system on a sustainable path and ensure that pension obligations are
Prop 106 is a responsible
plan for a growing problem that will benefit both taxpayers and retirees. We encourage
Phoenix citizens to Vote Yes on Prop 106.