The Legislature created the original ESA voucher program in 2011 for disabled students. Since then, it has added other categories of at-risk children, including children in military families, those living on Native American reservations, and foster children. SB1431 expands this program to all children statewide. Repealing SB1431 would leave the existing program untouched, preserving its use for the special-needs children for whom it was originally intended.
Currently, about 3,360 special-needs-eligibility students use the ESA voucher program. Under the new program, these children will no longer get priority. Eligibility for the newly expanded program will be determined on a first-come, first-served basis, and the Department of Education will deny all applications once the cap is reached.
Studies consistently show that vouchers-for-all programs disproportionately benefit wealthy families who pull their children out of high-performing public schools. This means that disabled children, foster children and the other children who currently get first priority will be forced to get in line with everyone else, potentially cutting them off from the services they so desperately need. Repealing SB1431 preserves access to vouchers for the children for whom Arizona's ESA program was created.
(Source: Arizona Republic)