November Ballot Measures, Part Three – Arizona

In 2011 Arizona established Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA’s) to allow parents of children with disabilities to opt out of public schools and instead receive funds from the state to provide education for their children from other sources. Parents or guardians who enrolled in the program and followed its strict guidelines would receive a prepaid bank card to pay for education-related tuition and fees, textbooks, tutoring, educational therapies, and curriculum.

Then in 2016 the Arizona legislature passed a law to greatly expand ESA’s, allowing all K-12 students to enroll in the program. Supporters of public education raised the alarm, claiming that ESA’s would ruin the public school system. They insisted that ESA’s were basically a school voucher system and school vouchers had been struck down as unconstitutional by the Arizona state supreme court in 2009. So leaders in the public school system came up with Proposition 305 which, if passed in November, would overturn the legislature’s plan to expand ESA’s.

Supporters of ESA’s point out that ESA’s are different than school vouchers because vouchers involve the state making payments directly to private and sectarian schools whereas ESA’s have the state distributing education funds directly to the parents. In addition, the Arizona state supreme court has already upheld ESA’s as constitutional.

Proposition 305 is a veto referendum meaning it is a grassroots effort to overturn legislation that the state legislature has passed.

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