(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
So yesterday here on the Jayblog we were discussing the fact that the Indy and Louisiana voucher programs only get a third of private schools to participate, while the Florida Step Up for Students program gets 71%. If the main goal of the program is to broaden choices for parents, this is rather important. Jason Bedrick sent me an email asking what the private school participation rate is in the Arizona tax credit program. I replied that we probably could not know because there are so many STOs, but I was wrong. The Arizona Department of Revenue has an answer: 337 private schools participate.
Pop over to the Digest of Education statistics for the number of private schools in Arizona- 340.
Now the AZ tax credit program has generated more than a little criticism over the years. Keep in mind however that the three Notre Dame ACE academies on the south side of Tucson that I introduced you to last week would have closed years ago without it. Moreover, the financial transparency in the system has improved. The Arizona Department of Revenue tracks the income of recipients by individual scholarship groups. If you want to focus your tax credit donation on lower-income children, as Mrs. Ladner and I have done for the last decade, you need only select a scholarship group that fits your preferences.
In any case, approximately all Arizona private schools participate in the Arizona tax credit program, and the Arizona tax credit program does nothing to compromise the independence of private schools. I know that the program is not everyone’s cup of tea, and there are things about it that I would change if the people of Arizona were foolish enough to make me Emperor (fortunately they are not) but let’s recognize a strength when we see one: the AZ program was designed to expand parental options and it is doing just that.