Unethical For-Profits Benefit from Taxpayer-financed Vouchers

In Education, Uncategorized On
- Updated

This is how vouchers work . . .

The Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization (Acsto) is one of the state’s largest voucher-granting groups. From 2010 to 2014 (the latest year recorded in federal tax filings), the group received $72.9 million in donations, all of which were ultimately financed by the state.

Arizona law allows the group to keep 10 percent of those donations to pay for overhead. In 2014, the group used that money to pay its executive director $125,000. His name? Steve Yarbrough. Forms filed by the organization with the I.R.S. declare that he worked an average of 40 hours per week on the job — in addition, presumably, to the hours he worked as president of the State Senate.

Yet the group doesn’t do all the work involved with accepting donations and handing out vouchers. It outsources data entry, computer hardware, customer service, information processing, award notifications and related personnel expenses to a private for-profit company called HY Processing. The group paid HY Processing $636,000 in 2014, and millions of dollars in total over the last decade.

Tax credits for vouchers also allow states to circumvent so-called Blaine amendments, legal prohibitions against the direct disbursement of public funds to parochial schools that were added to many state constitutions in the 19th century during a wave of anti-Catholicism.

Tax credit vouchers also finance approaches to education that diverge from generally accepted academic standards. Northwest Christian School, a 1,300-student private academy in Phoenix, helps parents apply to Acsto for vouchers. Northwest Christian’s elementary science and social studies curriculums were developed by Bob Jones Publishers, a leading provider of educational materials based on creationism.

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