After spending nearly two decades chipping away at the divide between public and private education, mainly by way of empowerment scholarship accounts (ESAs) and school tuition organizations (STOs), Arizona lawmakers finally brought the wall down in the form of HB 2853, which established universal eligibility for the ESA program. There were 31,750 applicants for the program, leading to the total cost for the expansion being $180M. Added to the $250M dollar-for-dollar tax credit donations for STOs and $190M for students with disabilities taking part in ESAs, the total cost of private school subsidies stands in excess of $600M.
Research by GCI has repeatedly shown that these taxpayer subsidies significantly benefit wealthier families more so than poorer families. Private schools receiving scholarships have no academic standard, fiscal standards, or accountability requirements. They are also not required to publish any data about their academic outcomes or the population that they serve, making it very difficult for parents to differentiate high-quality schools from those with spiffy marketing and for policymakers and the public to know where taxpayer dollars are going. Lawmakers should limit scholarships to families in need and require schools that receive them to meet minimum academic standards.
During the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, 600,000 Arizonans filed for unemployment insurance (UI ) benefits, 17% of the state’s workforce. Yet Arizona’s UI benefits were among the least generous in the country, costing its economy billions of dollars and slowing its recovery. Last year, Arizona raised UI benefits for the first time in 17 years, benefiting 70,000 people in the first year alone. Yet the state must continue to improve equity and accessibility for the UI system and explore ways to improve financial resiliency during times of economic hardship.