Education is on everyone’s mind at the Legislature this session.

Governor Brewer announced that improving education as a key part of her plans for 2012 when she said in her State of the State address that we will see “excellence and accountability in our education system.”

How do we achieve this high standard? The answer is simple – school choice.

Expanding school choice is the single best strategy for improving education for all children.

Continuing to grow Arizona’s school choice programs is a central goal this year at Center for Arizona Policy. Two school choice bills that would strengthen and improve the scholarship tax credit program have already passed out of the Senate and are now in committee in the House.   SB 1047 would double the amount people can donate to school tuition organizations and receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit and are specifically targeted at cutting down the waiting lists for scholarships

Another CAP-supported bill would expand the Empowerment Scholarship Account program, which was recently upheld as constitutional by the Maricopa County Superior Court.

Increasing school choices for families makes sense when you think about ways to improve Arizona’s education system: When you grow the options for families to educate their children and create a competitive environment that puts the focus on providing the best schooling for kids above all else, standards rise and outcomes improve.

But as these bills have been moving through the Legislature, we continue to see the same baseless attacks on these programs. Here are just a couple of the criticisms from opponents of school choice:

School choice programs like the Arizona scholarship tax credits need to be regulated more by the government and be accountable to the public.

It always is interesting to me when I hear these attacks because school choice programs actually increase accountability, not decrease it. The difference is school choice programs are accountable to the people who care the most about the individual student: the student’s parents.  Accountability is at the center of free market education because if a school isn’t “making the grade” and doing its job, families will simply leave and find a school that will meet their needs.

School choice programs cost the state money and are hurting public schools.

School choice programs actually save the state money.  The average cost to taxpayers per student in a public school is over $8,500 while the average tax credit scholarship is around $2,000, providing much-needed cost savings to the state.

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