House Bill 2853 would allow every Arizona student to get an Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) account — including those who already attend private schools — to pay for their education. The bill passed the Arizona House of Representatives last week after two Republicans who had opposed previous efforts to expand the program supported the bill.
Rep. Ben Toma, a Republican who sponsored the bill, said:
There’s a philosophical difference between school-choice advocates and public school advocates over whether the government or parents should decide where a student goes to school. It’s not about private versus public education. It’s about parents getting a choice for that particular child.
Democrats objected vehemently to the bill and disagreed with the use of public tax dollars to put towards private school education. Beth Lewis, the executive director of Save Our Schools Arizona, said:
The House’s passage of voter-rejected universal ESA vouchers underscores the Republican majority’s utter disregard for AZ voters. They are bought and sold by special interests who do not have our children’s interests at heart.
In 2017, Save Our Schools Arizona successfully referred a different ESA expansion to the ballot, and voters in 2018 rejected the voucher program by a nearly 2 to 1 margin.
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