Governor Brewer signs two small ESA expansions

April 23, 2014


(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The 2014 Arizona session is winding up, and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed two bills to improve the ESA program today.  Collectively these bills will keep the dependents of military children if their parents are killed in the line of duty, will make it easier for pre-school aged special needs children to enter the program without enrolling in a public school, and will make the siblings of eligible children eligible to participate in order to make it more possible for families to send their children to the same or at least nearby schools. The 2014 session marks the last rodeo for Governor Brewer, who is term limited.

Governor Brewer signed the ESA and a number of improvements into law, several tax credit program improvements into law, called for the creation of A-F school grades and fought hard for an earned promotion policy on literacy. She also vetoed a few choice measures here and there including a small tax credit measure today. She hammered through a temporary three-year sales tax ballot measure to increase to stabilize K-12 funding, but then stayed true to her word and stayed out of it while the alphabet soup groups made a complete hash of trying to create a permanent tax increase. Governor Brewer began Arizona’s first steps towards funding results rather than just seat time.  Let’s hope that further steps will materialize.

It’s been an incredibly difficult and tumultuous five years- the Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times” springs readily to mind. Several of the K-12 initiatives Governor Brewer supported remain a work in progress, making it feel strange to think that someone else will be exercising the duty of governor next year.  There has been a great deal of political blood spilled over some very difficult issues, but in my book, Governor Jan Brewer got far more right than wrong in K-12 reform.

Governor Brewer signs ESA expansion

June 21, 2013

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed SB 1363 yesterday, incorporating significant improvements into Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program into law. The ESA program will increase the minimum funding amount for participating students and will make eligible kindergarten students able to participate without prior public school attendance. Program eligibility remains otherwise unchanged (special needs and beginning this fall students attending D/F rated schools or districts, foster care children and the children of active duty military parents.)

Arizona had an incredibly difficult legislative session in 2013 so we are incredibly grateful to Governor Brewer and our stalwart legislative champions who got this bill over goal line.  Governor Brewer continues to build an impressive K-12 legacy and I remain hopeful that we will be able to pinpoint her administration as a turning point for public school performance in future NAEP data. Democratic Senator Barbara McGuire deserves special praise for doing right by the kids by offering a motion to reconsider on the bill after it had failed by a single vote on the Senate floor on the last day of session.  This action required real moral courage and it is clear that Senator McGuire has the quality in spades.

The lobby team led by Sydney Hay of the American Federation for Children and Deb Gullett of A+ Arizona have earned spots in the School Choice Hall of Fame, and the program continues to benefit from the outstanding work of the Goldwater Institute locally and the Friedman Foundation and HCREO nationally. In addition, Goldwater and IJ have been doing a great job in defending the program in court. This victory was a team effort and there are many more people both inside and outside of government who have helped to bring the program along. I am proud and thankful for all of you.

An Arizona Department of Education official recently told me that participating parents literally weep in meeting in expressing the depth of their gratitude for this program. This is a far greater reward than any thanks that I can offer. The ESA team has created a growing experiment in freedom-thank you all and keep up the good work!


Governor Brewer Signs Education Savings Account Expansion

May 14, 2012

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the expansion of the Education Savings Account program. The first year program provides students with 90% of the funds that would have gone to their public school into an account with multiple possible uses-including private school tuition, private tutoring, online program and saving for future college/university expenses, among other options.

The bill signed today expands eligibility to children attending D and F rated schools and school districts, the dependents of active duty military personnel and children that have been through the foster care system. The law also moves to a system of formula funding, making it one of the largest private choice laws in the nation with funded eligibility, behind only the new Indiana and Louisiana voucher laws on a percentage basis. The Arizona program now resembles an expanded combination of the Florida McKay and Opportunity Scholarship programs with the 21st Century twist of broadening the options of parents and requiring the consideration of opportunity costs (what you spend now cannot be saved for later).

I want to thank Rep. Debbie Lesko and Senator Rick Murphy for their steadfast and dedcated sponsorship of the bill and our in-state and national allies. Governor Brewer is building an impressive K-12 reform legacy that includes not only expanding parental choice, but also improving public school transparency, curbing social promotion and modernizing the teaching profession. In the not so distant future, we will be able to look at the trends in NAEP scores and identify Governor Brewer’s term and a half as a turning point for the better.

We have many miles to go in Arizona, but we are on our way!