PHOENIX — Governor Doug Ducey is expected to sign a bill expanding school vouchers.
Founder of 'Love Your School' Jenny Clark says she has five children that are under Empowerment Scholarship Program.
“Three of them got on because of the special needs category and the other two are on ESA because they were siblings. So we've been using the ESA for four years now and it's been amazing for our family,” says Clark.
She says the recent expansion of the school voucher program ties right into her nonprofit.
"The Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account Program has been in Arizona for 11 years, and all the categories that allowed families to qualify before, like military, special needs, D or F School. But now, every Arizona child between the ages of kindergarten to 12th grade, their family can access the Empowerment Scholarship and the money is truly following the child to whatever education environment works for them,” Clark says.
It was recently passed by the Arizona Legislature and is the largest school voucher program in the nation. Allowing all Arizona students to use public funding to finance private school.
"The money changes depending on if the child has a disability or not,” Clark says. “So, for the average family with a neurotypical child, that's just getting on the program because they're looking for something different. This scholarship ranges between 6500 to $7,000.”
This comes after the legislature promised $1 billion in K-12 education in next year’s budget.
But critics question who this is going to benefit.
Beth Lewis, with ‘Save Our Schools’ says, “The kids who are already on ESA for special needs, are really the students who benefit most.”
“I think everybody is pretty shocked and dismayed that the legislature would do this,” Lewis says. “It’s throwing away the vote of 1.5 million voters who just said no to this a few years ago.”
The voucher expansion means all Arizona students could enroll in a public school are eligible to get public funding to pay for private school tuition, online curriculums or tutors. Right now, fewer than 12,000 students receive those vouchers.
“As a teacher and a parent, I’m so excited to see that the legislature invested hundreds of millions of dollars. But that’s just going to be siphoned through vouchers and put into unaccountable, unregulated private academies,” Lewis says.