Universal School Voucher Expansion Will Undo Progress Made on School Funding
By: Rich Nickel, Education Forward Arizona President and CEO
In June, Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill that will expand Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, also known as school vouchers, to all K-12 students in Arizona.
The expansion of school vouchers means that potentially hundreds of millions of public funds will be put into the hands of private individuals to use with little fiscal or academic accountability. Universal expansion would allow every student in Arizona (1.1 million) to trade their public education for a debit card of $6,500 in taxpayer dollars for their education.
The potential scale of this could significantly drain school resources and undo much of the progress made with this year’s budget passed by the legislature. What good are those investments if hundreds of millions of those dollars will be skimmed off the top for school vouchers?
In a time when voters are demanding solutions for school funding and to improve teacher recruitment and retention, taking resources away from our education system is the last thing we should be doing as a state. Our public schools are a vital part of our community, driving job growth and economic progress that improves the quality of life for all Arizonans. The more we take resources away from our schools, the less ability they have to educate our children well.
All the while, these investments are being made in vouchers without any certainty that they will provide a higher quality education than a traditional public school. There is no outcome data for students who use a school voucher, so we have no idea how Arizona students do once they receive one. We do not know if these students graduate from high school, go on to college, or are prepared for a future career.