School Choice & Charters

Vouchers Halted in Arizona

By Christina A. Samuels — June 09, 2008 1 min read

From the East Valley Tribune comes this story about the Arizona state appeals court putting a halt to a two-year-old voucher program for students with disabilities, and students in foster care.

More than 350 schoolchildren in Arizona might be forced to leave their schools this fall, when the state will stop its two-year-old practice of paying for them to attend private schools. The decision to stop payments came as a result of a recent state appeals court ruling that two voucher programs - one for students with disabilities and one for those in the state's foster care system - are unconstitutional. In the May ruling, the judge said the programs violate a provision in the state's constitution barring use of tax dollars to benefit private or sectarian schools.

The ruling came in May, but the state superintendent said recently that he’s not making any more payments to schools unless the court finding is overturned.

The decision is a reversal in a popular movement for vouchers for students with special needs, which I wrote about early last year. (Though I can understand the value of special schools for students with disabilities, I’m not sure I understand what needs students in foster care have that cannot be met in public schools. I’m open to learning more about that.)

The Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute has a brief editorial criticizing the court’s decision and outlining their plans to appeal.

Just as an aside, I had a chance to hear a presentation by Matthew Ladner, the author of that Goldwater Institute editorial, when I was covering another story. He’s an interesting guy; I remember being intrigued by his straightforward assessment of the racial imbalance he sees in special education, based on research he conducted in Arizona. His 2003 report on that topic can be found here.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.