Gov. Doug Ducey just signed a historic Arizona school choice bill into law, providing school funds to follow all students.
School choice has been gaining traction all across the nation for years, and that fight became a priority for many lawmakers this past school year as the trust in public education continues to drop. The majority of Americans, across party lines, support school choice, or the belief that families should be able to easily choose where to send their children to school. States have been creating and expanding on laws regarding this, and in Arizona, school choice just won a monumental battle, making history and possibly becoming the pillar for education going forward.
Late yesterday, July 8th, the Republican Gov. of Arizona, Doug Ducey, signed House Bill 2853 into law, making the Grand Canyon State the first of its kind to create a school voucher system for every single student to access. With no limits, any family can now pull from per-student public education funds, and use them at their discretion to use towards private school tuition, homeschool expenses, tutoring, online classes, education supplies, or microschools. The monumental signage of this Arizona school choice bill into law was both praised and lambasted by many.
Before, the existing school voucher program only was made available to certain groups for access. In essence, Arizona school choice was only a reality under certain qualifiers, such as those with special needs, students attending low-performing public schools, military families, and Native American residents. Now, any family that wishes to access these public funds is allotted $6,500 per student on an annual basis, pulling the funds directly out of the state’s public school budget.
As the push for school choice was rallied by Republican activists this year, more and more Republican states updated or created school voucher programs to make school choice accessible to a wider array of students and families. However, Arizona is the first to make it available to everyone, no questions asked. Quickly after signing the Arizona school choice legislation into law, many of these activists took to their keyboards to laud the approval.
Corey DeAngelis, the research director at American Federation for Children was quick to share the news, applauding the bill as a way to fund students over systems. He called it a big win that will be inclusive of all families. When Christopher Rufo, a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute shared that the governor was slated to sign the Arizona school choice bill, he called on other Republican states to follow suit.
To advocates, school choice serves everyone, no matter their status. In theory, it gives poor children living in areas with undesirable, failing schools the ability to take the funds allotted to the public school system, and apply it to sending their child to another more desirable school. On the other hand, opponents argue that this assumption is not intuitive, as the allotted funds typically wouldn’t even come close to covering the costs of private institutions.
Nearly as soon as the Arizona school choice program was signed into law, opposing activist groups vowed to fight back. Save Our School Arizona stated that they will be filing to appeal the new law under a provision of the state’s Constitution. But for now, much of the state celebrates, as school choice sees a major victory.