Educational Scholarship Account Bill Fails In Arizona House

By  KJZZ News
April 18, 2014

An effort to sharply expand the use of tax dollars to send students to private and parochial schools failed Thursday in the Arizona House.

Members defeated a plan to allow any student in a zip code where the average income is below $44,000 to use educational scholarship accounts to attend those schools.

The vouchers, which are worth about $5,400, are now available only to students with special needs and those attending schools that get a D or F grade. State Rep. Justin Olson believes denying additional vouchers is denying parental choice.

“That is an arrogant point of view to think that I know better for your kids than you know for your own kids,” Olson said.

Rep. Heather Carter says there already is parental choice, including open enrollment at any public school and a large system of charter schools. She describes the vouchers as state-funded debit cards for parents.

“And so what's happening now is that we are driving taxpayer dollars into a system of private schools,” Carter said.

The measure failed on a 31 to 27 vote, as six Republicans sided with Democrats, who say the program unfairly takes money from the public schools and gives it to private institutions that cannot be held publicly accountable. Democrat Rep. Bruce Wheeler of Tucson called it just another nail in the coffin to weaken the public education system to the point where it would be destroyed.