State Capitol News
5:54 pm
Wed May 16, 2012

Governor Brewer Signs Bill to Use Public Funds to Pay for Private Schools

A new law signed this week by Gov. Jan Brewer could give an estimated 100,000 children in public schools a check from the state to go to a private or parochial school instead. 

Under that law, any student whose school is rated a D or worse on overall academic performance qualifies for a voucher, good for about $4,000 a year. That covers 183 of 15-hundred schools that have been graded. Gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson said that's not enough to pay tuition at many private schools -- and some families will not be able to take advantage of the program.

"It's not a cure-all for everyone," Benson said. "And it's not going to allow every student in every circumstance to attend any private school that they wish. Some families are going to have to shop around and find what works for them."

Rep. Debbie Lesko acknowledged that could leave these schools with the poorest students -- and the schools with less state aid.

"Why would we continue funding a school on a per-student basis that continues to fail?" she asked.

But Sidney Hay, who lobbies for a school choice group, said the poorest students don't have to be left out.

"When you now have a whole bunch of new empowerment of kids that would never have had the opportunity to spend $4,000 on a private school I guarantee you there will be new private schools opening up in those areas," he said.