Future for Educational Freedom in AZ

Governor Ducey Signs SB 1224!

Some good news today as our state leaders and citizens continue to do all we can to stop the spread of COVID-19 through prayer and action.

Sponsored by Senator Sylvia Allen, SB 1224 provides much needed relief to families seeking Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) for their children. Currently, Arizona law offers ESAs to parents looking for educational options best meeting the needs of their children if they meet one of these category requirements:

  • Students in foster care
  • Students living on an Indian reservation
  • Students in failing or underperforming school districts
  • Students with a parent who is on active military duty or was killed in the line of duty
  • Students with a parent who is legally blind, deaf, or hard of hearing
  • Students with a sibling who is a current or former ESA recipient

SB 1224 clarifies that qualified students living in Arizona on an Indian reservation may attend a school in an adjacent state if the school is within two miles of the Arizona border.

But, very importantly, SB 1224 makes changes to the ESA program that CAP, along with our school choice allies, has been advocating for the last couple of years. The changes should enable parents to more easily access ESAs for their children.

  • Allows ESAs to cover supplemental educational materials, such as books and manipulatives, to increase learning success
  • Requires the Department of Education to develop a handbook for applicants and participants, which will increase understanding of the ESA polices and process
  • Establishes the publication of the handbook on the Department of Education website in order to ensure better understanding of the program
  • Requires the State Board of Education to establish an appeals process related to eligibility and funding to ensure appropriate administration of the ESA program

SB 1224 passed by the minimum votes necessary in the Senate, 16-14, and in the House 31-27. All Senate Republicans voted in favor except for Senator Heather Carter, Legislative District 15, who joined all Senate Democrats in voting no. All House Republicans voted yes with all Democrats present voting no. The full details are available on the CAP bill tracker.

Take a moment to thank Governor Ducey (engage@az.gov) and Senator Sylvia Allen (sallen@azleg.gov) for their leadership in support of educational freedom!

Yet A Threat to Educational Freedom Looms – Save Our Schools Mounting Another Challenge

Save our Schools (SOS) strongly opposes any option for state tax credit scholarships or ESAs enabling parents to choose the educational setting best meeting their children’s needs. Once again, SOS wants to deny children educational freedom in Arizona. Earlier this month, SOS announced a ballot initiative to limit significantly education freedom in Arizona, targeting children who desperately need an alternative to their local school.

The most harmful measures in the SOS ballot proposal include:

  • redefining statutory definitions to ensure limits on education freedom
  • capping opportunity for ESA kids to less than 1% of the number of those attending public schools
  • taking away funding promised to students living on an Indian reservation near the border
  • artificially restricting the market so new ESA programs may not enter the market
  • requiring students, even those already eligible, to compete for limited funds
  • prioritizing funding such that foster, military, and Indian children may be pushed out of the program
  • requiring the Attorney General to enforce the act to ensure SOS policies are protected

Spread the word Decline to Sign any ballot measures, but especially the SOS one. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, no one should even be circulating petitions out in public or door-to-door.

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