Arizona voters have rejected a massive expansion of the state's private school voucher program criticized as a move to drain money from public schools and give it to rich parents to fund their kids' private school tuition.
Proposition 305 was placed on Tuesday's ballot after educators collected enough signatures to block the 2017 expansion championed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.
Opponents said it would siphon hundreds of millions of dollars from already-underfunded public schools. Supporters said the expansion would give parents more school choice and boost public education accountability.
"This result sends a message to the state and the nation that Arizona supports public education, not privatization schemes that hurt our children and our communities," Beth Lewis, co-founder of Save our Schools Arizona, said in a statement Tuesday night. "Thousands of volunteers have poured blood, sweat, and tears into this effort for nearly two years in order to protect public education from continued attacks."
The state currently has a relatively small voucher program that lets some parents take state money and spend it on private schools.
The 2017 law expands eligibility to all students by 2022 but caps enrollment at about 30,000.
According to the Center for Arizona Policy, the "needs" required include:
- Students in foster care
- Students living on an Indian reservation
- Students in failing or underperforming school districts
- Students with a parent who is on active military duty or was killed in the line of duty
- Students with a parent who is legally blind, deaf, or hard of hearing
- Students with a sibling who is a current or former ESA recipient