Vouchers Hurt


Arizona has several types of private school voucher programs, including Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA vouchers) and School Tuition Organization tax credits (STO vouchers). Special interests have long been forced through bills expanding these programs with the ultimate goal of dismantling the public education system and erecting a for-profit, taxpayer-funded system in its place.

However, Arizona voters and voters nationwide have rejected these schemes, seeing the damage they cause to their local communities: 

  • Vouchers siphon funds away from public schools, which are the center of AZ communities and the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars. 
  • Vouchers benefit the upper class, creating a system of haves and have nots. 
  • Vouchers do not lead to academic gains. 
  • Vouchers have little to no accountability or transparency, leading to problems of fraud and abuse of taxpayer funds

For years, the AZ legislature has worked to pass ESA and STO private school voucher expansion. 

  • In 2006, vouchers were first passed in AZ.

  • In 2009, vouchers were ruled unconstitutional by the AZ Supreme Court, which deemed it illegal to give public dollars to private schools.

  • In 2011, the legislature passed an ESA voucher, a workaround that gave the money directly to parents instead of the schools.

  • For years, the legislature expanded eligibility. Instead of preserving the program as it was originally intended to serve students with special needs, the legislature continued to expand to new categories.

In 2017, the legislature passed universal vouchers, which would have made every child in the state eligible for a private school voucher. Seeing the imminent danger, 6 moms formed Save Our Schools Arizona and a statewide grassroots movement swelled to refer this measure to the ballot. It was defeated by 65% of Arizona voters.

However, the AZ legislature refuses to respect the will of the voters, and continues to attempt to pass further voucher expansion. In 2020, the legislature attempted to expand the ESA voucher program to 70% of Arizona students. This measure did not secure the votes needed to pass in the House or Senate. 

These voucher programs now  siphon $300 million from Arizona public schools every single year. Learn more about the damage done to Arizona’s schools here.

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