AZ Lawmakers Vote for State Aid for Private and Parochial Schools

Jan 12, 2012

The Senate Finance Committee has approved two measures designed to help students attend private and parochial schools.

Existing law provides a dollar-for-dollar state income tax credit of up to $500 for donations made to organizations that provide scholarships for students who want to attend these schools. 

One measure would double that support by setting up a second program, with identical credits, the main difference being that aid would go only to students who transfer from public schools.

A second measure would scrap requirements that these private schools test youngsters annually to assure they are making academic progress. Sen. Rick Murphy said these tests are unnecessary because parents make the choice of sending their children to a private or parochial school.  He said, "If the parent is doing research and choosing the school and then, after experiencing it, chooses to keep that child there because they think it is what is the best fit, I don't know that you need much more accountability than that because if it wasn't working the parent would yank them out and do something different."

But Janice Palmer of the Arizona School Boards Association said the satisfaction of a parent is only part of the issue.

"What we're concerned about," she said, "is that there's also accountability to the state of whether we're getting a return on investment. We do it with our traditional public schools. We do it with our charter schools. And we feel that same accountability should be leveled with private schools."

Palmer said that's only fair as these scholarships are funded by money that otherwise would have been paid to the state treasury.