Phoenix-On Monday, March 24, the Arizona State Senate delivered a victory for proponents of educational freedom. With a bipartisan majority of 16 votes, the Senate passed SB1263, a corporate scholarship tax credit program that could give thousands of low-income, public school students the opportunity to transfer to private schools next fall.
The legislation, based on an idea put forth in a Goldwater Institute research study last spring, would allow corporations to receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for donations to fund private school scholarships. Those scholarships would be used to provide school choice for public school students who qualify for the federal free and reduced school lunch program.
Proponents of educational freedom argue that the law, if adopted, would be good for Arizona families. Arizona Dream Foundation President Dan Lips agrees. "Thousands of needy Arizona children still await the opportunity of school choice," Lips says. "The Arizona School Choice Trust alone has more than 3,700 children on its waiting list for scholarships. Yesterday's Senate vote is the first step to ensuring that those children receive the help they deserve."
In addition to giving thousands of families a choice of schools to attend, the program would save the state millions of dollars. Because scholarships would only be made available to public school students, with the scholarship value capped at approximately $3,000, the state would save roughly $2,000 for each student who leaves the public school system in favor of a private school. According to Goldwater Institute President Darcy Olsen, "After five years, this program could save the state up to $53 million annually. Even the most moderate projections show that this program should save the state approximately $4 million next year."
The corporate tax credit legislation has now been referred to the House of Representatives.
A record of the Senate vote is available online at: http://www.azleg.state.az.us/legtext/46leg/1r/bills/sb1263.sthird.1.asp