Arizona education funding may be sent out of state

If a few Arizona senators have their way we could be sending our education tax dollars out of state. Senate Bill 1224 would be the only voucher program that designates money for out of state schools in the nation. The bill passed the Arizona Senate Education Committee on party lines 6 to 3, on February 4th. Senators Kate Brophy McGee, Sonny Borrelli, Rick Gray, Tyler Pace, Paul Boyer, and Sylvia Allen, voted yes. The bill may come to the legislature floor as early as tomorrow.

SB1224 is intended to expand the Arizona voucher system as well as send tax dollars out of state. From the SOSAZ (Save our Schools Arizona) Legislative Report, Week of February 3, 2020 “SB1224 would force Arizona taxpayers to fund private schools 120 miles outside state borders, nearly to Albuquerque, NM to the east and San Bernardino County, CA to the west.”

Another bill, HB 2898, which would expand ESA vouchers to non-public schools within two miles of the state border for students who live on reservations or who reside in a town with fewer than 10,000 residents in a county with a population between 150,000 and 500,000, if the town straddles the border between Arizona and a neighboring state. This was written this way to assist just a few Navajo Nation students that attend a school directly over the border with New Mexico, but “Over time, this bill could send millions of Arizona tax dollars to subsidize private schools in California, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada — all states with whom we share reservation land,” said Dawn Penich-Thacker, a spokeswoman with Save Our Schools Arizona.

Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, one of five Democrats on the House Education Committee, said he does not support the expansion because he thinks Arizona taxpayer dollars should only be spent in Arizona. “I think it would be misguided for us as a state to say that we’re going to be good stewards of your resources and then allow those resources to go to a Utah private institution.”

While the Flagstaff USD doesn’t have many dollars going to the ESA voucher program (we have 14 students using $236,655.94 for a per student cost of $16,904 ) the state will spend $110 million on the program, with the majority of the money being used in Phoenix Metro area and Tucson school districts.

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