Vouchers Approved; School Aid Hiked
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2005 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The precollegiate education spending figures do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
The Arizona legislature has approved three new voucher programs, increased funding for English-language learners, expanded full-day kindergarten, and increased teacher pay.
Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, held back her veto and allowed to become law measures that spell out how to handle funds for English-learners and that create the voucher programs. She signed measures increasing funding for full-day kindergarten and teachers’ salaries.
State lawmakers approved a K-12 budget of $3.9 billion for fiscal 2007, 8 percent more than the budget for fiscal 2006, which was $3.6 billion.
The issue of how to pay for the education of English-learners dominated debate during much of this year’s legislative session.
The first-term governor pushed for more funding than the Republican-controlled legislature was willing to approve. The stalemate was finally broken in March, when Ms. Napolitano agreed not to veto the bill on English-learners.
She predicted, though, that it wouldn’t pass muster with a federal court that had previously concluded the state was not adequately funding programs for those students.
The matter has continued to be bogged down in a federal appeals court over lawsuits challenging how the aid is to be distributed and the testing of English-language learners.
Separately, the fiscal 2007 budget contains an additional $118 million for kindergarten and $100 million to increase teacher pay in fiscal 2007.
Voucher programs for children in foster care or with disabilities will cost $5 million. A third voucher program will eventually provide $21 million in tax credits for companies that pay for private school scholarships. ("Ariz. Adds Foster-Care Voucher to School Choice Package" July 12, 2006.)
Vol. 25, Issue 43, Page 24