Arizona's New Voucher Program Set to Become Largest in the Nation, But It Is Also the Biggest Farce
According to the AP, Arizona just passed a bill that will make every student in the state eligible for voucher. It may become the biggest voucher program in the nation. The "program allows parents to take between 90 percent and 100 percent of the state money a local public school would receive to pay for private or religious education. The average student who isn't disabled will get about $4,400 a year, but some get much more." The funding mechanism and its expected cost to the state is murky. "The original Arizona plan was estimated to cost the state general fund at least $24 million." Now, a revised plan and estimate are supposed to save the state $3.4 million by 2022.
What is clear, however, is that Arizona's per pupil funding for public schools currently ranks 47 out of 50 states. To make matters worse, it distributes those meager funds unequally. The Education Law Center's 2017 School Funding Fairness Report grades Arizona's funding distribution as an "F." Schools with moderate levels of student poverty receive only 88 cents on the dollar in comparison to schools with no student poverty. The comparison is even worse between high poverty school districts and low poverty school districts. In other words, Arizona spends the least on students who need the most.
That same report also shows that Arizona is doing almost nothing to fix its low funding levels or unequal distribution. Arizona ranks 49th in the nation in terms of the level of fiscal effort it exerts to fund its schools.
These background facts place Arizona's new voucher program in a troubling light. These cold hard facts show that the state is not really interested in supporting adequate and equal education for its students. Thus, it is no Education Law Prof Blog: