Strong opinions on both sides as AZ expands private school vouch - Tucson News Now

Strong opinions on both sides as AZ expands private school voucher program

(Source: Tucson News Now) (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Arizona's legislature has passed a major expansion of the private school voucher program.

Governor Doug Ducey (R) signed the new law after it narrowly passed the legislature late Thursday night, April 6.

The law allows more students use tax dollars to pay tuition to attend private school.

In a few years the program will be open to every public school student in the state to apply for the program, though the law caps the number who can sign up at 30,000 by the year 2022.

In the legislature Democrats and some moderate Republicans opposed the bill they say takes money away from public education, which does not need more budget cuts, and will cost taxpayers too much.

They argue wealthy Arizonans who would be paying for private education anyway will benefit from the vouchers.

Those opposing the new law contend it's leading to the dismantling of public education.

Republicans argue the bill gives parents more choice in where their children are educated.

There's only so much taxpayers money for education, and there are many who want a piece of that pie. 

The vast majority of schoolchildren in Arizona attend public schools. That's more than one million students.

Among those directly affected, as you may imagine, private schools applaud the legislation while public schools see it as another attack on an institution that should have legislative attention, especially when it comes to low teacher pay that's causing teacher shortages.

"We're not having that conversation any more. Now we're talking about well, how do we give more money for students to go into private schools. And again, It's nothing against private schools, but what we have is, we have a crisis level on the public front and that's what we really need to be focusing on," said Pima County School Superintendent Dustin Williams, who calls the law discouraging and a setback in public education.

"There's a need for both. In fact, 95 percent -- most people do send their kids to public school. So, there's a need for the public schools. This is a measure though that will enable those for whom that's not fitting the need, to be able to go to the school of their choice if it is a private school," Arizona Catholic Conference Executive Director Ron Johnson.

"I think it's a great idea. It's really nice to have options as a parent to choose where your children go to school and who educates them. So I think it's a fantastic idea," said Tucsonan Lisa Golembiewski, who has one child in public school and another in private school.

"No. We need to put more money into public educations. We need to pay our teachers more in the public schools. We need to take care of the kids that go to those public schools so they're afforded all the opportunities that children who attend private schools are afforded," said Tucsonan Chris Serrano whose child attended both public and private schools. 

It's expected this new law will not be the end of the war over where taxpayer education dollars should go.

Opponents of the law expect Republican legislators to try to raise the cap to allow more children to sign up for private school vouchers.

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