Arizona’s Voucher-Education Program Upheld by State’s High Court

Mar 21, 2014

The state’s high court today upheld a voucher-like system which uses public funds to send children to private and parochial schools. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer reports.

Andrew Morrill, president of the Arizona Education Association

The program, dubbed empowerment scholarship accounts, essentially sets up a checking account for parents to use for permissible expenses. Foes including the Arizona Education Association said that runs afoul of constitutional provisions which bar public funds from being used to subsidize private and parochial schools. But the Supreme Court, without comment, ratified a lower court ruling upholding the program as legal because the parents — and not the state — decide where the money goes. The ruling comes as Rep. Debbie Lesko is working to expand eligibility to perhaps 800,000 of the state’s 1.1 million youngsters.

“I think it’s a win for the students in Arizona. It will give them more opportunities and more educational choices,” Lesko said.

Andrew Morrill, president of the Arizona Education Association, said the ruling makes it more important than ever for lawmakers to concentrate on the remaining question: Does the program work?

“If we’re going to leave this in the arena of public policy, we had better make sure that we can say definitively voucher programs are good overall,” Morrill said.

Some legislators want students getting vouchers to take the same standardized tests as youngsters in public schools. But, supporters say parents are in the best position to know if their children are getting the education they need.