SB 1452 – Diverting more state dollars to private schools at the expense of public school students
Despite the fact that Arizona voters resoundingly rejected a massive expansion of school vouchers in 2018, several voucher bills have been introduced this session. One of those bills is SB 1452. SB1452 not only extends eligibility for vouchers (in Arizona vouchers are referred to as Empowerment Scholarship Accounts - ESAs) to a new category of students, it also requires that ESA accounts receive a portion of Classroom Site Fund dollars and, in some districts, a new property tax especially for ESAs. Here’s what SB 1452 would do:
- Increase eligibility for ESAs. Adds students receiving Title I services or attending a Title I school or qualifying for the federal free- and reduced-lunch program.
- Make ESA students also eligible for STOs. Allows high school students who receive an ESA to also receive scholarships through the private school tuition organization tax credit program.
- Extend length of time ESA accounts remain open. Keeps ESA accounts open for expenditures even after the student has received a postsecondary degree or four years after high school graduation.
- Create a new property tax to pay for ESA students. For school districts that do not qualify for Basic State Aid, creates a new property tax to replace state dollars that would otherwise be deposited into the ESA accounts of students in those districts.
- Divert Classroom Site Fund dollars to ESA accounts. Adds ESA students to the calculation and distribution of the Classroom Site Fund, which is funded from Arizona’s 6% education sales tax and from the state land trust endowment. The Classroom Site Fund was created by Arizona voters in 2000 through the passage of Proposition 301 which was intended to increase funding for Arizona’s public schools. While district and charter schools’ use of the Classroom Site Fund is restricted to teacher pay and maintenance/operation costs such as reducing classroom size, Classroom Site Funds deposited into ESA accounts may be used for any purpose allowed for ESAs.
In 2017 another attempt was made to expand the ESAs but the legislation was blocked from becoming law and, in 2018, Arizona voters rejected the proposed expansion. It’s time to once again send lawmakers the message that Arizonans want state dollars to be spent on public schools and not diverted to private schools.