The Freedom From Religion Foundation applauds Arizona voters for sending a clear message not to divert public tax dollars to fund private religious schools.
By rejecting Proposition 305 on Tuesday, Arizona declined a massive expansion to its voucher scheme, which has proven to be a cautionary tale of how large, long-lasting voucher schemes can devastate public education. Voters also rejected, by proxy, the Trump-DeVos scheme to privatize education and corrode public education.
Arizona’s voucher program has expanded alarmingly quickly, from 50,000 voucher students in 2005 to 256,000 in 2017. Arizona taxpayers or corporations may donate money to nonprofits that grant vouchers, then claim a 100 percent, dollar-for-dollar credit against their state taxes. (So, if you donate $1,000 to a voucher nonprofit, you subtract $1,000 from your taxes.) The nonprofit then transfers money to families to pay for tuition at private schools, but may keep 10 percent to pay overhead. Over $100 million of state money per year finances vouchers for private schools.
The New York Times has chronicled the shocking way Steve Yarbrough — who as president of the Arizona state Senate promoted the tuition tax credit system — has personally profited from this exploitable setup. "The fact that an influential politician can both promote and profit from tax credit vouchers shows what can happen when public funding for education is largely removed from public hands," wrote The New York Times.
Public money should not be directed to promote religious agendas at private schools that offer no accountability or control to the public funding them. On Election Day, Arizonans seem to have agreed with this common-sense proposition.
“Arizona voters appear to have turned a corner on this issue,” comments FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “Lawmakers should take notice that the public wants strong, secular public education, rather than having their tax dollars diverted to private religious schools.”
Earlier this year, FFRF sent every member a copy of "The Case Against Vouchers and Tuition Tax Credits." It is available online and can be ordered in print at FFRF’s website.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nontheist organization dedicated to the separation of state and church, with 32,000 members all over the country, including more than 700 in Arizona.