On July 1st, Salon posted an article which suggested that the expanded educational scholarship account program in Arizona would “kill public education.” The fears of Arizona democrats and some public educators are based on HB 2853, a bill poised to be signed by Governor Doug Ducey this week.
The Chalkboard Review Staff have reviewed Salon’s claim and Arizona’s HB 2853, and have found:
The Arizona education system has long been known for its unique tax-credit system which allows families to receive charitable tax credits to be used for students to attend schools not publicly funded by the state. Arizona also has an existing scholarship account program for qualifying students to receive funds to help cover costs associated with education.
Last week, the Arizona House and Senate voted to expand eligibility for the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA). Should Governor Ducey sign HB 2853, all K-12 students would be able to receive 90% of the tax funds allocated per student each year (which amounts to about $7,000 for the 2022-2023 school year). Money deposited into the ESAs may be used to pay for tuition, fees, textbooks; and under special circumstances, education therapies, paraprofessionals, and other supplementary materials.
While the $7,000 would not cover the entire cost of tuition for 49% of Arizona private schools, this proposal would provide families “options for the education of students in this state,” according to the text of the bill. Funds can also be used to cover costs associated with homeschooling or attending other schools not funded by the state. Furthermore, the accounts will continue to alleviate costs associated with educating students with disabilities.
Critics of the bill suggest that this reallocation would “kill public education” in Arizona. The 2022 budget, however, added $1 billion for public primary and secondary education. Undoubtedly, some families will move their students away from district schools, however, a majority of Arizona families will continue to choose traditional, publicly-funded schools over more expensive alternatives.
While some Arizona democrats claim that the new program would “perpetuate discrimination and inequity,” the bill aims to do the exact opposite: allow families who would not otherwise afford private education the ability to choose the school most appropriate for their students’ needs. Will this entirely “dismantle” public schools in Arizona? Probably not.