On Tuesday, August 8, the grassroots group Save our Schools Arizona delivered more than 100,000 signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State successfully halting SB1431 from taking effect and referring it to the November 2018 ballot for Arizona voters to decide.
In fewer than 90 days, more than 2,500 regular Arizona voters fanned across the state collecting signatures at libraries, coffee shops, parks, and shopping centers. They worked day after day in 120 degree heat, through monsoon storms and around jobs, families, illness and family deaths.
Signatures were collected by Arizona citizens ranging from newly-registered 18 year olds to 84 year old retired teachers, independents, Republicans and Democrats, teachers, parents, business owners and retirees whose personal history or children’s education include neighborhood public schools, public charter schools, private schools and homeschooling.
SB1431 – the voucher expansion bill – was highly controversial throughout the 2017 Legislative Session. Despite unprecedented public opposition, the bill narrowly passed with both Democrats and Republicans voting against it.
According to Save our Schools, SB1431 takes tax dollars away from public schools. Ranging from $4,000 to $30,000 per child, per year, “Empowerment Scholarship Account” vouchers can be used to subsidize religious, private, or parochial schooling as well as homeschooling and any other expenses a family describes as “educational.”
In a recently published article Parag Pathak, a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice, found vouchers do not necessarily help students. Pathak conducted an evaluation of “the Louisiana Scholarship Program (LSP), a school voucher plan providing public funds for disadvantaged students to attend private schools of their choice.” He found that “LSP participation substantially reduces academic achievement: attendance at an LSP-eligible private school lowers math scores by 0.4 standard deviations and increases the likelihood of a failing math score by 50 percent. Voucher effects for reading, science and social studies are also negative and large. Participating private schools charge below-average tuition, and the program’s negative math effects are concentrated among participating schools with lower tuition. Negative voucher effects may be due in part to selection of low-quality private schools into the program.”