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Arizona’s Expanded School Voucher Law Offers Parents the Freedom of Insufficient Funding

July 1, 2022

On June 24, 2022, the Arizona legislature has passed legislation that expands school voucher eligibility to all Arizona students K-12 as well as PreK for students with disabilities. Arizona governor Doug Ducey is expected to sign the bill into law.

Arizona House Bill 2853, “Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Accounts; Appropriation,” expands the state’s school voucher program such that even students already enrolled in private schools can get what is expected to be approximately $7,000 per student per year away from the state’s public schools and charter schools and toward educational expenses, including but not limited to private school tuition, “educational therapies,” psychological evaluations, standrdized testing fees, public transportation costs to and from school, and computer hardware used for educational purposes.

Once a parent or guardian signs the school voucher agreement, “the department shall transfer from the monies that would otherwise be allocated to a recipient’s prior school district… [or] a recipient’s expected school district of attendance, to the treasurer for deposit into an Arizona empowerment scholarship account an amount that is equivalent to ninety percent of the sum of the base support level and additional assistance prescribed in sections 15-185 and 15-943 (charter school funding) for that particular student if that student were attending a charter school.”

According to 12News Arizona, the state’s general fund, not the education fund, will foot the bill for students partaking in this expanded school voucher program and who have only attended private schools or have only been homeschooled.

Students already receiving income-tax-credit-funded scholarships to attend Arizona private schools are not eligible for the school voucher program– which means that those best positioned to benefit from Arizona’s expanded school voucher program are already-homeschooled students as well as private school students who have means enough to not need the aforementioned tax-credit scholarship in order to already attend private school.

The bill itself includes no language regarding tracking the socioeconomic status of those accessing the expanded voucher program. However, families with fewer resources would be harder pressed to stretch that $7,000 to cover private school tuition, fees, uniforms, transportation, and meals than would families with more means.

According to Private School Review, the average cost of private school tuition in Arizona was $10,255 in 2022, with average elementary tuition at $9,765 and average high school tuition at $15,095. So, from the outset, the Arizona expanded school voucher program does what school voucher programs in general so often do:

Offer parents the *freedom* of insufficient funding.

Perhaps educational opportunists will fill in the gap by renting storefronts and creating low-overhead *private schools* with the goal of turning a profit on those $7K-per-kid vouchers.

On Twitter, Ducey referred to this below-average funding as setting “the gold standard in educational freedom.”

Of course, even the private schools with below-average tuition are not required to accept school voucher students, and if something goes wrong and the private school and student part ways mid-year, in signing the school voucher program agreement, the parent or guardian has already “release[d] the school district from all obligations to educate the qualified (voucher program) student,” which means no convenient return to the previously-attended, nonprivate school. I forsee litigation or other messiness on this point; for example, parents of students dismissed from private schools for reasons that students are not dismissed from public schools may well want their children allowed to once again attend public school. Will the state ask the parent of the student receiving school voucher funds to repay the funds? Will the state pursue the private school? Will the second-chance, public school receive funding for this returning studetnt? Or will Arizona taxpayers end up paying twice for one student’s education?

What happens if parents are scammed out of their voucher money by education grifters?

What happens if parents run out of voucher money before the school year ends and are therefore unable to provide a full year of schooling for their children?

If by “gold standard” Ducey means “potential for lots of problems unaccounted for in the rush to celebrate a voucher program best suited to those already with means,” then yes, Arizona is indeed on track as a school voucher “gold standard.”


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One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on Random Thoughts, Sports and Stuff and commented:
    What a joke!!
    I look forward to Texas attempting to pass similar lame legislation.

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