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Governor Expands Voucher Program

Governor Brewer Expands State Voucher Program, Costing Public Schools Nearly $65 Million

In a disappointing move, Governor Jan Brewer signed into law an expansion of Arizona’s voucher program – Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA).  SB1363 expands the use of the voucher scheme to kindergarteners and would provide funding for attendance at private and religious schools throughout their K-12 education.

The Arizona Education Association (AEA) respectfully asked the Governor to veto this bill, stating, “SB1363 will divert funds from an already struggling system and channel them to private schools without any accountability.  Arizona’s students deserve better.”   Data was provided to her, showing that the financial impact of the expanded ESA program could be higher than $7.2 million in the first year and grow to more than $64.8 million in just the fifth year of the program. View AEA’s analysis of the budget impact of SB1363.

“The AEA strongly believes these dollars are better invested in public education where there are multiple accountability measures in place which help to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being properly spent,” says AEA President Andrew F. Morrill. “Opening this program to allow kindergarten students who may have never enrolled in public schools to immediately start receiving these funds, will be a net loss to the state over the student’s entire K-12 education.” 

By including kindergartners in the state’s voucher program, this means that parents who always intended to educate their child through the private school system will forever have a private school voucher to help pay the cost of the tuition and fees courtesy of the Arizona taxpayers. In addition, no accountability measures were included in the bill to ensure taxpayer money is being used appropriately. This law will also expand the state’s current private school voucher program so that it will receive even more state funding than it currently does by increasing the amount per student by $1,600 if they had previously attended a charter school.

AEA, along with a coalition of education groups, are currently involved in a lawsuit, NIEHAUS et al. v. HUPPENTHAL et al., challenging the constitutionality of Arizona’s private school voucher program.  The case is currently in the Court of Appeals.

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