The Arizona House of Representatives has agreed to expand an academic scholarship program that allows students to transfer from a public or charter school to a private school or home schooling.
House Bill 2622 says students can get an “Arizona Empowerment Scholarship” if they meet certain criteria, including attending a failing school or one graded D by the state.
The scholarships can also go to students who have parents on active military duty or students who are in foster care.
The scholarship would place 90 percent of student funding otherwise going to a public or charter school into a special account. Parents could then use the funds to home school children or send them to private or parochial schools.
“The amount of money that’s going into these kids to go to private and parochial schools has to be matched by whoever is taking them because it isn’t enough to be sufficient to pay for tuition at these schools," said Rep. Steve Farley, D-Tucson.
He also pointed out that Gov. Jan Brewer previously vetoed a version of the bill.
Rep. Debbie Lesko said the bill is not likely to be vetoed this year because the governor's office has been involved in discussions on the legislation.
“In any case, this is a great school choice bill," Leski said. "It improves education for children no matter what learning environment they’re in. Whether in a traditional public school like my children were in or whether they’re in a charter school or whether they’re in a private school or home school or wherever, I think the goal should be to improve education and I vote aye."
Democratic Rep. Eric Meyer said the bill doesn’t provide accountability for the funding.
"We don’t know where the money goes, how it’s spent," Meyer said. "When they (students) participate we have no idea how well they do in those classes or in those schools. The schools that they transfer to aren’t required to take any of the exams that we use to give our schools ratings across the state. So the idea that these dollars are being spent wisely, we don’t know."
The bill will return to the Senate for a final vote there.