Dear Commons Community,
Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona has signed into law sweeping changes in how state money can be used to educate students, making it easier for parents to enroll their children in private schooling at public expense. The bill, which the State Legislature passed Thursday, makes all 1.1 million public school students in Arizona eligible for money from a program that until now was available only to some students, including those with disabilities and those in underperforming schools. As reported by the New York Times:
“Under the law, parents who withdraw their children from public school can use their child’s share of state education funding to pay for private school tuition, home-schooling costs, tutoring and online education, as well as for therapies for the disabled.
Democrats and teachers unions vociferously opposed the expansion, which they said would drain money from already underfunded public schools. But the behind-the-scenes intervention of Mr. Ducey, a Republican, helped the legislation overcome opposition from both sides of the aisle.
The Arizona plan is one of the most ambitious expansions yet of a concept — portable public education funding — that Donald J. Trump endorsed on the presidential campaign trail last year, and which his secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, spent decades lobbying for as a philanthropist.
Ms. DeVos, who spent part of last week in Florida promoting that state’s private school choice programs, praised Arizona for its action. “A big win for students & parents in Arizona tonight with the passage of ed savings accts,” she said on Twitter. “I applaud Gov. @DougDucey for putting kids first.”
State Senator Debbie Lesko, the sponsor of the bill, said the Trump administration’s support for the concept had helped make her legislation more palatable to lawmakers. “From the national level down, the winds have changed,” she said. “All children are different, and they learn in different educational environments. We shouldn’t force them to be in the same educational model we’ve used for the last 150 years.”
We will see this type of legislation in other states as Trump/DeVos education policies take hold.