Steven Yarbrough is a state senator in Arizona and founder and CEO of Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization, a tax-credit scholarship granting organization. Last week an investigative journalist at CBS 5 accused Yarbrough of profiting from a program he helped found. Two of the charges levied by the news organization turned out to be false. Sen. Yarbrough was elected to office four years after he founded the scholarship organization, and SB 1047, which Yarbrough did co-author, did not increase scholarship organization management fees as the investigator claimed.
However, Yarbrough does admit to earning money by renting real estate to his own scholarship organization and through a third-party data processing company he co-owns. This extra income is in addition to his $96,000-a-year salary from the scholarship organization. Yarbrough is up front with these expenditures, declaring them in both his 990 and in an email with the journalist. But being up front with such expenditures, sadly, isn’t enough.
While the Arizona Senate Ethics Committee has cleared Yarbrough of wrongdoing, school choice proponents must hold themselves to a higher standard. School choice is still in a tenuous position and critics will latch onto any fear (real or imagined) to prevent, or even eliminate, choice programs. Even the perception of someone making money from choice programs (even if they take a financial loss, or offer professional services cheaper than competitors) does harm to the movement.
Grade: Needs Improvement