Jonathan Butcher of the Goldwater Institute is working with Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, to expand existing eligibility requirements for what are known as Education Savings Accounts for all children eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. In essence, the taxpayer-funded program that can pay for things like tuition and fees at private and parochial schools, originally sold to the public as help for students with special needs or stuck in poor schools, would become an option for all.
The plan has provoked alarm at the Arizona Education Association which fought, unsuccessfully, to block the program, first at the Capitol and then in the courts. AEA President Andrew Morrill said all this would do is drain needed dollars from a public school system which he said has seen its funding slashed by a cumulative $1.6 billion since the recession began.
Butcher conceded that the plan, taken to its possible limits, could result in a drain of students — and the dollars that follow them — from public schools. But he said the more likely outcome would be public schools becoming more efficient and even offering options like individual classes for home-schooled students on a tuition basis.