Arizona schools chief Horne says voucher program sustainable as critics fight back

Jul 27, 2023, 2:11 PM | Updated: 2:17 pm

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)...

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — Arizona schools chief Tom Horne is steadfast the state’s universal voucher program that continues to be the subject of criticism is sustainable.

Horne told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Thursday that more lower economic groups taking advantage of empowerment scholarship accounts what will make the program last.

“The trend has been more to people in the lower economic levels and if that trend continues there, there’ll be no additional cost because if a student leaves public school for a private school, it’s a wash,” Horne said.

Critics, most notably Gov. Katie Hobbs, don’t believe in the program’s long-term future or its ability to save taxpayers money, even if low-income families continue using it.

Hobbs, in a Tuesday memo, said the program could cost taxpayers over $934 million, with 53% of all new K-12 education spending going toward only 8% of Arizona’s students.

Beth Lewis, executive director of nonprofit Save our Schools Arizona, agrees with Hobbs.

Increased costs for ESA accounts would only take away tax dollars from other services, according to Lewis.

“I think folks need to know that that either means they’re going to have to raise taxes for this program or it’s going to cut into public services that our state funds like roads, public safety and public schools,” Lewis told The Mike Broomhead Show on Thursday. “Those are the options.”

Horne believes universal school choice is the way forward and plans to proceed full speed with it.

“My job is to help improve our public schools and encourage excellence in our public schools and we have excellent public schools,” Horne said.

“Even a good school doesn’t necessarily meet the needs of all the students. And if a student’s need is not being met, the parents should have the ability to find a school where the student’s needs will be met.”

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Arizona schools chief Horne says voucher program sustainable as critics fight back