The $10 billion state budget signed by Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano last week includes 3 major advances for school choice there.
School choice in Arizona had already been growing at a healthy clip: In 2005, over 22,000 scholarships were awarded to K-12 students as a result of the state’s personal scholarship tax credit program. Last year, 500 charter schools comprised 28% of Arizona’s education system, educating 86,000 students.
A powerful new innovation in the law is a voucher program for foster children. Dan Lips of the Heritage Foundation observed, “For a foster child, a scholarship can provide critical stability, allowing him or her to stay in the same school even when switching homes.” Foster children are more likely to perform academically below their grade level to be held back in school. This scholarship program will empower foster children to access education of their choice.
About 10,000 of the nation’s 523,000 children currently in foster care live in Arizona.
“These new programs constitute a second wave of choice based reform in Arizona,” observed Dr. Matthew Ladner of the Alliance for School Choice. “A growing consensus holds that parents should be free to choose the best school to meet the needs of their child. These programs will give that sort of opportunity to some of Arizona’s most disadvantaged children.”
These latest advances seem to indicate that after the remarkable advances for school choice in 2005, the movement’s progress is not slowing down. Earlier this month, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack signed into law a school choice program offering tax credits for scholarships for students to enroll in private schools.
By the end of the first quarter of this year, over 8,000 Ohio students had applied for vouchers as part of a statewide plan Governor Bob Taft signed into law last year. The program gives K-12 students in consistently underperforming schools vouchers of between $4,250 and $5,000 to attend the public or private school of their choice.
Under the new Arizona law:
• Arizona’s corporate tax credit, passed earlier this year, doubles to $10 million. In addition, there will be 20% annual funding increases until 2010, when it will reach $21 million, a level estimated to provide assistance to about 7,000 students.
• A new, $2.5 million voucher program for foster children will be enacted, granting scholarships of $5,000 per student to attend the public or private school of their choice.
• The law establishes a $2.5 million voucher program for students with disabilities.
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