Contact: Charles Siler
BREAKING NOW: ARIZONA SUPREME COURT DENIES TEACHERS’ UNION APPEAL, UPHOLDS NEXT FRONTIER EDUCATION SAVINGS ACCOUNT PROGRAM
Ruling paves way for education savings accounts throughout the country, even where vouchers have been rejected
The Arizona Supreme Court formally denied a request Friday from a state teachers’ union to strike down the state’s landmark education savings accounts, upholding the innovative school choice program and ending a nearly three-year legal battle between school choice families and opponents of education reform.
Arizona’s education savings account program, known officially as “empowerment scholarship accounts,” allows eligible families to use a portion of the funds that would have been spent on their children in traditional public school to seek a customized education experience, including private-school tuition. Nearly one in five Arizona families is currently eligible for an account, including special-needs children, children in failing schools, children adopted out of the state foster system, and children of active-duty military families.
Education savings accounts were conceived of by the Goldwater Institute following a 2009 court decision that rendered a school voucher program unconstitutional. Like nearly 40 other states, Arizona’s constitution contains a provision called the Blaine Amendment, which prohibits the transfer of government money to private or parochial school. The teachers’ union and other opponents of education savings accounts argued in this case that education savings accounts also violate the Blaine.
However both the trial court and the state appeals court found that, unlike vouchers, education savings accounts do not shift funds from the state to private schools, but rather empower parents to choose to spend the funds to suit their children’s needs best.
While many policymakers throughout the states have expressed interest in bringing education savings accounts programs to their constituents, many have encountered roadblocks due to the continued hostility of school choice opponents through the courts. Thanks to the outcome of this lawsuit, they no longer have reason to fear.
Legislators in Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana , Oklahoma, Oregon, Oklahoma and Utah are among the states that have already considered education savings accounts bills this year. Arizona lawmakers are currently considering an expansion of the program to make the majority of Arizona children eligible for the accounts.
“The constitutional cloud has been lifted from the nation's most innovative educational opportunity program,” said Clint Bolick, vice president of litigation for the Goldwater Institute. “Arizona is blazing the trail to expand choice and competition in education.”
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