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Arizona governor lauded for signing bill to expand school choice in state


  • A sign for the "class of 2026" is seen in a first-grade classroom at St. Ambrose Catholic School in Tucson, Ariz., in this 2014 photo. Arizona will expanded its school choice program to all students by 2021. (CNS file photo/Nancy Wiechec)
  • First-grade students finish an assignment at St. Ambrose Catholic School in Tucson, Ariz., in this 2014 photo. Arizona will expanded its school choice program to all students by 2021. (CNS file photo/Nancy Wiechec)

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PHOENIX (CNS) -- The Arizona Catholic Conference hailed the expansion of an Arizona school choice program that will allow any kindergarten through 12th-grade student to use state funds to pay for private school or other educational expenses.

"Yesterday was a historic day for school choice in Arizona as we furthered our reputation as the national leader in school choice!" said the conference in an April 7 statement after Gov. Doug Ducey signed S.B. 1431.

The legislation will make the Empowerment Scholarship Account program, or ESA, open to all Arizona students by the 2020-2021 school year.

"When parents have more choices, kids win," Ducey tweeted before signing the bill April 6.

The Arizona program will be the most comprehensive of its kind in the U.S.

"Because Arizona courts have already determined this program is legal, it will be the first program of its kind to be available to all children in a state," said the Goldwater Institute, a Phoenix-based public policy think tank and advocate for educational choice initiatives.

Established in 2011, the state's Empowerment Scholarship Account program had been limited to students with disabilities, foster children, those with special needs, students attending failing public schools, children of active duty military members and students residing on Indian reservations.

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