State Capitol News
4:45 pm
Tue April 12, 2011

Brewer to Decide To Sign Legislature to Provide State Funds to Help Students Attend Private and Parochial Schools

Phoenix, AZ – Proponents of school choice pushed through a law in 2006 to provide vouchers for some special needs students. These are checks drawn on the state treasury that parents could use to pay the tuition and fees of their children. But the state Supreme Court in 2009 struck that down as violating a constitutional provision barring aid to private and parochial schools. Sen. Rick Murphy who crafted that plan said the apparent flaw is that the state was sending a check to the school. This one is structured so the state puts money into a scholarship fund that parents of these special needs students could tap if they decide not to send their youngsters to public schools.

(The state is not even cutting the check. They're not even any part of the process whatsoever in determining how the money is spent, other than the law says it has to be spent on the education for that particular student.)

While Murphy's legislation is designed to benefit just a few special needs students, he conceded that this is likely to be the test case to determine if Arizona can provide similar scholarships to allow the one million students in public schools to instead get state money to go elsewhere.

(You can call it what you want. This is a way to say let's see if this works. And we'll see if it works. I think it will work splendidly. I think it will give some great options to students who don't have options right now. But we'll have to wait and see how it works in the real world.)

Murphy said he thinks this new plan will survive constitutional challenge. But Andrew Morrill, president of the Arizona Education Association which successfully challenged the vouchers, said he's not so sure. He said lawyers are studying the bill to determine if this is just another type of illegal voucher. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer