The future of Arizona depends on the education of our children. Because education is not one-size-fits all, families need options in case public schools may not be the best fit for their child. All children deserve to be in an educational environment in which they can thrive. The ESA program saves taxpayers money, because ESA students only receive 90% of the Arizona funds that a school would receive for that same child (low income children would receive 100% if Prop 305 passes). The funds are on a sliding scale based on whether the child has a disability. Federal and local funds remain with the schools. It’s just common sense that a district would not get money for a child they are not educating, because the student is no longer at their school. Funds for education should follow the child in to whatever learning environment best meets their unique educational needs. Arizona families know that school choice works, and that every child deserves educational opportunity.
Arizona is proof that if you allow families to choose between district schools, charter schools, and private schools to help their child succeed, they will do so. Arizona has the highest percent of students attending charter schools of any state in the U.S. (only Washington, DC has a greater percentage). And in some cases, families also go to great lengths to choose a district school other than the one to which their child was assigned. Parents are capable of deciding how and where their children learn. Some of the most successful schools in the country are Arizona charter schools. Also, Arizona charter schools, on average, out-perform district schools on a national comparison of test scores. A significant effect—and one that is hard to measure—is that parents know there are better options for their child when an assigned school is not a good fit. Arizona voters have seen the success that school choice has had on our students. Voting Yes on Prop 305 continues that success.
Voting "yes" on Prop 305 will continue to improve educational opportunity for all Arizona children. With a balanced increase to the Empowerment Scholarship program of .5% of all public school students each year, until the year 2022, the program can grow responsibly while also improving opportunity for students and saving Arizona tax payers. Each year, accountability to the program continues to increase. With a "yes" vote on Prop 305, additional layers of accountability and transparency are added to the program as well. Families who qualify for Empowerment Scholarships are able to see their children grow and have hope for the future. ESAs allow students to have a tailored education that meets their unique needs, all the while saving the state money. If Arizona voters want to continue the trend of student success seen with school choice, then they should vote "Yes" on Prop 305 and allow continued student improvement and opportunity for all Arizona kids.
Proposition 305 is the massive expansion of an unaccountable, un-transparent entitlement program that hurts the public schools producing 95 percent of Arizona's future workforce. It subsidizes private school vouchers at the expense of all other schooling options. It loads tax dollars onto debit cards, hands them out indiscriminately, but then fails to track how those tax dollars were spent or if they got results. The existing Empowerment Scholarship Accounts -ESA vouchers- are limited to children with verifiable needs: children with autism, children living in foster care, in failing schools, in military families and a few others. Voting NO on Prop. 305 poses no threat to the existing program and keeps those children a priority. Prop. 305 will siphon more than $160 million dollars per year out of Arizona's already-underfunded public and charter schools in order to hand out thousands more ESA vouchers to any parent who wants them, regardless of need. Prop. 305 is a bad deal for Arizona.
"School choice" has become a complicated term but the reality is simple: the majority of "school choice" in Arizona is within the public school system - open enrollment across and within districts, magnet schools, specialized academies and charters - all publicly funded but sometimes run for profit, other times run as non-profits. The ability to pick a science-focused school over an arts-focused school, a football school over a music school, these are all examples of "school choice." On top of all that, Arizona already has private school vouchers, private school tax credits and lenient homeschool laws. Those in favor of Prop. 305 want to degrade ALL of our existing choices in order to prioritize - meaning, pour tax dollars into - a single choice that fewer than 5 percent of Arizona families make even though it degrades - meaning, defunds - all the other choices being made by more than 95 percent of families. Prop. 305 disrespects the choices made by 95 percent of families.
Prop. 305 makes a dire funding situation worse by cutting an additional $160 million per year from Arizona's public schools. Pouring money into Prop. 305 while starving the public schools teaching 95 percent of Arizona's children is like taking a vacation before you've paid the mortgage; it's like opening a new credit card to avoid paying the bills you already have. Arizona public schools are already some of the lowest funded in the nation, with more than 2,000 classrooms without a permanent teacher and an additional 3,000 without a certified teacher. This is because teacher pay is nearly the lowest. A lack of resources coupled with low pay means teacher retention is extremely difficult, with more than half of Arizona teachers leaving the profession within a few years for higher paying jobs in other states or other industries. Prop. 305 creates more expenses for Arizona when we haven't fully covered the ones we have. Prop. 305 would damage our schools and our economy for years to come.