by David Safier
Arizona’s GOP majority Legislature is pushing an expansion of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, a voucher program that takes money out of public schools to pay for private or church school tuition.
Touted as a way to increase school choice and help low-income students, the current program is most used by students in wealthy districts, reporting by The Republic found.
Arizona’s quest for school choice has resulted in a large number of charter schools. The unintended consequence: charters serve disproportionately fewer Latino students, according to the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting.
Education tax credits, also designed to increase school choice, also fail to deliver for those who most need help. Tax credit money designated for private schools disproportionately benefits well-off families, according to another Republic investigation.
Public school tax credits also tend to go to wealthier schools, where parents can afford the donations.
Now lawmakers are considering what could be a significant blow to efforts to raise the achievement level of Arizona’s poorest and most disadvantaged students.
There is legislative push to end desegregation funding that allows some districts to focus on improved learning opportunities for students facing challenges. It is being done in the name of fairness, because not all schools benefit from being able to levy property taxes to remedy identified problems with how minority students were treated.
The system may be flawed. But denying funds that schools use to address the needs of Latino, Black and Native American students makes little sense.
It makes more sense to find ways to increase funding for all schools – especially those with greatest needs.
Arizona’s leaders need to look at the demographics in our schools and find ways to reduce – not increase – achievement inequities in our schools.