School Choice & Charters

Ariz. Battle Over Choice Heats Up as Republicans Revise Voucher Strategy

By Joetta L. Sack — April 05, 2005 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Arizona’s legislature is mulling a compromise voucher plan that would provide publicly financed aid for tuition at private schools to students who failed state assessments.

The plan, one of several school choice proposals before the legislature, would give the vouchers to families of students who failed to perform at grade level on the assessments, who had disabilities, or who were English-language learners. The House K-12 education committee voted 6-3 last week to approve the measure.

The House has not moved forward, however, with another, much broader bill that the Senate passed earlier in March. The Senate bill, authorizing vouchers of between $3,500 and $4,500 to any Arizona students who switched from public to private schools, would create the most sweeping voucher program in the country. As with the compromise plan, the tuition aid could be used at both religious and secular schools. (“Ariz. Senate Sends Sweeping Voucher Bill to House,” March 23, 2005.)

Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat who has steadfastly opposed vouchers, may be the insurmountable obstacle for any such measure if Republicans are unable to strike a deal with her.

Governor Is Dismayed

Last week, she vetoed another measure favored by advocates of private school choice: a provision to expand the state’s tuition tax credits for individual taxpayers to corporations. The plan, which was part of a broad budget package, would have allowed corporations to contribute up to $10,000 to the state’s scholarship fund, which allows private, nonprofit groups to give scholarships to secular and religious private schools.

Gov. Napolitano did not specifically mention the tax credits in her letter explaining the veto, but she expressed dismay that the budget did not include funding for her proposals to expand full-day kindergarten, school construction, and certain noneducation programs.

BRIC ARCHIVE

“As has become all too familiar, the legislature’s budget is balanced on the backs of Arizona children,” she wrote.

The governor’s office does not comment on legislation before it reaches the governor’s desk, because ongoing negotiations could result in a number of changes to the bills, said Pati Urias, a spokeswoman for Ms. Napolitano, when asked about the new voucher plan. In general, the governor “has never been a supporter of school vouchers,” Ms. Urias said.

But some voucher supporters say the Republican-led legislature could strike a deal with the governor to get her to sign on to the tax credits, and perhaps a voucher plan, if they agreed to finance her proposals for kindergarten and other school initiatives.

Rep. Mark Anderson, the Republican who chairs the House K-12 education committee, said his chamber had so far not voted on the Senate’s full-blown voucher proposal because leaders have struggled to find votes for that bill, but that he was optimistic that the House version could be a good compromise for school choice advocates and Gov. Napolitano.

“We’re still trying to find a combination of choice options,” Mr. Anderson said in an interview last week. His committee last week passed a bill that included funding for full-day kindergarten and the corporate tax credit, in the hope of winning the governor’s signature.

Clint Bolick, the president and general counsel of the Alliance for School Choice, a national group based in Phoenix that promotes vouchers and other forms of school choice, said he was hopeful that the governor and the legislature could reach a compromise allowing the state to go forward with both a voucher program and the corporate tax credits.

“We’re hoping a compromise can be reached to let a thousand flowers bloom, or at least two,” Mr. Bolick said.

He added that the legislature’s discussions of the numerous proposals was a sign of the growing momentum of the national school choice movement. (“Legislatures Hit With Surge in School Choice Plans,” Feb. 23, 2005.) “Arizona has been a leader on the tax-credit side … and now, Arizona is poised to do that on the voucher front.”

Court Ruling

In the meantime, a federal judge, for the second time, upheld an existing state law that provides income-tax credits to individuals who donate money to the state’s scholarship fund that helps pay for private school tuition. The ruling rejected a challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups that had argued the 1997 law allowed public funds to go to religious institutions in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Arizona’s tax-credit program gives a dollar-for-dollar credit of up to $500 for individuals, and up to $625 for married couples, who make donations to school tuition accounts.

The legislature is also considering a change in that law that would end the so-called “marriage penalty” and allow married couples to contribute up to $1,000 to the accounts.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Building Teacher Capacity for Social-Emotional Learning
Set goals that support adult well-being and social-emotional learning: register today!


Content provided by Panorama

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Choice & Charters Opinion What Do Parents Look for When Choosing a School?
New polling sheds light on what a nationally representative sample of parents had to say on this question this summer.
2 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters Virtual Charters in Hot Water Again. Accusations of Fraud Prompt $150M Lawsuit
Indiana officials seek to recoup more than $150 million they say was either wrongly obtained or misspent by a consortium of virtual schools.
Arika Herron, The Indianapolis Star
2 min read
Indiana's attorney general Todd Rokita speaks at a news conference on Sept. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis. Rokita filed a lawsuit against a group of online charter schools accused of defrauding the state out of millions of dollars Thursday, July 8, 2021.
Indiana's attorney general Todd Rokita speaks at a news conference on Sept. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis.
Darron Cummings/AP
School Choice & Charters How the Pandemic Helped Fuel the Private School Choice Movement
State lawmakers got a new talking point as they pushed to create and expand programs to send students to private schools.
8 min read
Collage showing two boys in classroom during pandemic wearing masks with cropped photo of feet and arrows going in different directions.
Collage by Gina Tomko/EducationWeek (Images: Getty)
School Choice & Charters Opinion Taking Stock After 30 Years of Charter Schools
Rick Hess speaks with Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, on charter schools turning 30.
8 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty