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Prop 305 Would Expand State Funds for Private and Religious Schools

David Wallace/The Republic/file

A proposition on this year’s Arizona ballot is designed to expand the state’s school voucher system. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, it would make more money available to parents for private or religious school tuition. 

A yes vote on Proposition 305 would allow a law passed by the legislature last year to go into effect. It lets all Arizona students apply for vouchers, or Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, by 2022, but caps the program at 30,000, with most students receiving about $6,000.

Many educators oppose the initiative. The group Save Our Schools forced Prop 305 onto the ballot after gathering enough signatures to block the voucher expansion law after it was passed, and say the measure deprives cash-strapped Arizona public schools of funds.

"Proposition 305 once it reaches capacity would mean at least $71,000 leaving every single public school in Arizona—$71,000 a year is the equivalent of two teachers’ salaries," says Save Our Schools spokesperson Dawn Penich-Thacker.

Jenny Clark is with Yes on 305, and the parent of two Empowerment Scholarship students.

"Our goal is really to allow parents to make the decision, and if they feel their child needs a different educational environment for whatever reason, that they would have that opportunity and that choice," she says.

Supporters of the voucher expansion say the program would actually save taxpayers money if it’s implemented. Governor Doug Ducey recently endorsed the measure calling the Empowerment Scholarship program a fiscally responsible way to customize a student’s education.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom as executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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