March 18 update: The House Ways and Means Committee gave a due pass recommendation along party lines yesterday to Senate Bill 1452, sponsored by Sen. Paul Boyer, which would expand voucher eligibility to students who attend Title I schools and take part in the federal free- or reduced-price lunch program, divert Classroom Site Fund money from teachers’ pay and local funding for schools to students’ Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, or vouchers.
I agree education is the #civilrights issue of our time. It’s why I support America building the best possible education system for ALL students. I simply cannot support voucher expansion that helps only a handful of students and drains resources from our public schools. pic.twitter.com/Y81g5hpP5Q— Rep. Lorenzo Sierra (@Sierra4AZ) March 18, 2021
Original story: This week, Arizona Legislators will hear three bills that would expand voucher eligibility to more than 70% of Arizona students, expand Student Tuition Organization scholarship eligibility for private school students, increase STO scholarship amounts, and quadruple the amounts individuals and corporations may donate to School Tuition Organizations in four years.
The Arizona School Boards Association opposes all three bills that will be working their way through the House of Representatives this week, said Leigh Jensen, governmental relations associate for the non-profit that serves school board members throughout the state.
AZEdNews video: #Legislative Legit: STO & voucher eligibility and expansion bills
Edited by Jacquelyn Gonzales/ AZEdNews
Senate Bill 1118, sponsored by Sen. David Gowan, would expand the private school students eligible for a student tuition organization scholarship to students who were home-schooled before enrolling in a qualified school, moved to Arizona from out of state before enrolling in a qualified school and received an Empowerment Scholarship Account and did not renew the account in order to accept an STO scholarship. Click here for an ASBA summary of SB 1118
SB 1118 would also increase the maximum scholarship amount that a private school student can be awarded from $5,500 to $7,500 from an STO’s donations from corporations and insurers.
“This one passed through Ways and Means this week,” said Sarah Jedlowski, ASBA governmental relations intern. “It also increases the maximum scholarship amount an STO can award and the growth rate of the scholarship from $100 to $200 per year.”
Senate Bill 1041, sponsored by Sen. David Livingston, would increase the amounts that individuals and corporations may donate to School Tuition Organizations for private school scholarships from $5 million a year currently to $10 million in fiscal year 2022, $15 million in fiscal year 2023, and $20 million by fiscal year 2024 and each year thereafter. Click here for an ASBA summary of SB 1041
“As of right now, the Department of Revenue grants tax credits for individual contributions to these STOs – the School Tuition Organizations – They can’t exceed as of right now a combined $5 million per fiscal year so what this bill does is it’s going to increase the aggregate cap over the course of the next four years,” said Rico Yanez, ASBA governmental relations intern.
“Both of those bills passed through the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday on party line votes, so we assume they’ll be headed to the floor” this week, Jensen said.
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“The other one we still have hanging around is Senate Bill 1452, this is about the Empowerment Scholarship Account program,” Jensen said. “It’s in the House now.”
Senate Bill 1452, sponsored by Sen. Paul Boyer, would expand voucher eligibility to students who attend Title I schools and take part in the federal free- or reduced-price lunch program, divert Classroom Site Fund money from teachers’ pay and local funding for schools to students’ Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, or vouchers. Click here for an ASBA summary of SB 1452
“It also allows ESA recipients to use an ESA and STO at the same time, allows a few new purposes for ESA funds like transportation and then also allows ESA recipients to get a portion of Classroom Site Fund money from Prop. 301, which was originally passed for teachers pay,” Jensen said.
This move to expand vouchers that use public tax dollars to fund students’ private school costs, comes just two years after Arizona voters rejected expansion of Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts by voting against Prop. 305.
Senate Bill 1452 will be heard in House Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday, Jensen said.
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