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Advocacy group: Voucher expansion could cause Arizona schools to suffer

(AP Photo/Joshua Paul)

Arizona’s new voucher expansion bill will take money from the 95 percent of Arizona students that go to public school and give it to the private sector, according to the volunteer group Save the Schools.

“The majority of our children today are still going to public school,” said former congressman Ed Pastor who held a rally Wednesday in South Phoenix for Save Our Schools. “The $200 million that is going into the private sector should go back to the public sector so we have adequate education.”

The bill signed by Republican governor Doug Ducey last month caps total voucher enrollment at about 30,000 students in 2022. The bill extends eligibility for the state’s voucher program to all 1.2 million Arizona schoolchildren over four years.

“To make sure that we have a viable workforce in the future, we have to make sure that they have a great education.” Pastor said. “By taking money away from public schools it means less resources.”

Losing that money will hurt schools serving minority and low income students the most, he said.

“If a parent wants to send their kid to a private school, than it should be on their dime,” he said.

The group Save the Schools must collect more than 75,000 valid signatures to put the law on hold until the November 2018 general election.

Dawn Penich-Thacker, spokesperson for Save the Schools, said this group and its advocates are not against school choice, they’re in favor of responsible choices.

Republican Senate President Steve Yarbrough lamented the effort to refer the bill he backed to the voters.

He said the Legislature is “enormously committed to K-12 public education,” and pointed to a state budget that devotes more than 40 percent of its general fund spending to those schools.

“I just think it’s unfortunate that something so modest as a maximum potential of up to 30,000 kids out of 1.2 million would generate that sort of resistance,” Yarbrough said. “But it’s a free country, they can do what they want to do and we’ll see.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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