In July of 2022, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation into law ensuring what his office calls “school choice” - funding for parents to choose where to send their students to school. The legislation will grant funds to students seeking education in any school, from conventional public schools to private schools, religious schools, independent micro-schools or even homeschool. According to the Governor’s Office, the point of this legislation is to make sure “our kids will no longer be locked in under-performing schools.” The legislation was signed in July, but its execution has been delayed due to a public petition seeking to put the legislation to a vote; if the petition reaches a number of signatures equal to a certain percentage of the school districts’ respective populations - around 118,000 signatures - the Arizona public will be called on to vote for the issue on the 2024 ballot rather than defaulting to accept Governor Ducey’s legislation.
If the bill does go through, parents will find themselves able to pick and choose where to send their children with their tax dollars - effectively using government subsidies to privatize education.
Cheryl Mango-Paget, Coconino County Superintendent of Schools, said this of the subject: “Parents should be able to choose. My main concern is potential for lack of accountability. I’m all for parent choice, but we need accountability for these private schools and micro-schools that are popping up.”
Superintendent Mango-Paget also answered a question on the minds of many Arizona parents in places like Fredonia and Moccasin, here in the northernmost parts of the state: “In regard to Arizona students looking to attend schools across state lines using funds from this bill, Arizona tax dollars will not leave Arizona.” Even if the bill passes the general vote, schools outside of Arizona borders will not qualify for school choice funding vouchers. Mango-Paget qualified her statement saying, “If, for example, Fredonia High School were to close down, we could potentially reimburse high schools nearby for taking the attendance, possibly in places like Kane County - but that would be entirely different and separate from the voucher bill.”
There is precedent for such an agreement across state lines, wherein students from a small residential area, without an abundance of educational options, attend a different state’s schools; students from areas like Cane Beds and Colorado City, Ariz., are able to attend Washington County schools as part of their school district. Kane County’s Superintendent of Schools, Ben Dalton, commented on such a potential arrangement for Kane County, stating, “At a certain point, it no longer becomes an issue of where the funding is coming from. We already have a few students that just pay the high school’s tuition. The issue with an agreement like this is resources - do we have the faculty and staff, the facilities, the seats in rooms? Regardless of funding, taking a sudden increase in students in any of the County’s schools would take time.”
The deadline for the petition opposing the legislation is September 24, and Superintendent Mango-Paget says that 118,000 signatures are “not unreasonable as there are about 100,000 signatures already on it - there have been much greater petition demands that have been met with much less attention than this is getting.”
If any Arizona citizen wishes to sign on to the petition, they can do so at the Arizona Save Our School movement’s website. If that number of signatures is achieved, the issue will go to the 2024 ballot - quite the delay even if it should pass the general vote at that time. If the petition is successful, Arizona citizens are encouraged to vote on the 2024 ballot.