Concerns about Fraud in the Use of School-Choice Funds Are Misplaced

While opponents of allowing parents to use government monies to educate their children as they see fit have complained of the potential for waste and abuse, Jason Bedrick argues that there is very little of either:

A dozen states now have K-12 education savings account, or ESA, policies that allow families to use a portion of state education funds to customize their children’s education. Families can use money drawn from an ESA to pay for private-school tuition, tutoring, textbooks, homeschool curricula, special-needs therapy, and more. In five states, every K-12 student has or will soon have access to ESAs or ESA-like programs.

The most recent review of Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program by the Arizona auditor general found an improper payment rate of almost zero. A prior review in 2018 had found “[m]ore than 900 successful [ESA] transactions at unapproved merchants totaling more than $700,000.” Opponents of the school choice blasted the program for its supposed lack of accountability, but they failed to mention that this accounted for only about 1 percent of ESA spending.

Moreover, as Matthew Beienburg of the Goldwater Institute has documented, much of the misspending was the result of innocent mistakes, not fraud. For example, the grandmother whose had purchased “educational games and supplies for her special-needs grandson that weren’t explicitly required by his at-home curriculum and thus not approved under the program.” Other parents found their accounts flagged for purchasing things like pens, pencils, notebooks, and other consumable supplies that are not eligible expenses. Innocent misspending must be reimbursed. The rare instances of intentional fraud are subject to prosecution.

Indeed, education savings accounts have proven far more financially accountable than other government programs.

Read more at Education Next

More about: Education, School choice, U.S. Politics

 

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood