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

 

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy