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Governor Brewer vetoes education savings program expansion

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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed House Bill 2626, which would have expanded the state’s education savings accounts program. School choice advocates had rallied in support of the bill, which they claim would have offered parents an unprecedented level of choice for their children’s education. 

House Bill 2626 (which passed by a 39-15 vote) would have increased the number of students who would qualify for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA). In addition to special needs students, who currently qualify, the legislation would have expanded the program to include students who attend a school or school district rated a “D” or “F” by the state department of education, children of a member of the U.S. military and students identified as gifted.

Arizona enacted the ESA program in April, 2011. The program allows parents of students who are identified as having a disability to receive 90 percent of the per-pupil expenditure to use on a variety of educational tools, including tuition and fees, textbooks, educational therapies and tutoring. 

In a letter to the speaker of the House of Representatives, Andy Tobin, the governor underscored the main reasons behind her decision to veto the bill. Namely, that ESAs can have an upfront cost and a cost to the state’s general fund. “We must enhance educational options whenever we can,” added Brewer, “but we must also ensure that government is not artificially manipulating the market through the state budget or tax policy in a manner that would make an otherwise viable option so unattractive that it undermines rational choice in a competitive market.”  

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