Great News From Arizona
I’ve discovered (via the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice) that the Grand Canyon State has approved legislation expanding school choice. The state’s governor, Jan Brewer, signed the bill into law today.
The Friedman Foundation’s president and CEO, Robert Enlow, said in a release that the new law “creates a new tax credit scholarship program for children with special needs and children in foster care.” He also pointed out that that the program replaces an earlier voucher program that the state’s courts discontinued:
This tax credit scholarship program was enacted in response to a State Supreme Court ruling declaring that a voucher program serving these children was unconstitutional. The new legislation offers priority to the children who received vouchers under the earlier program, ensuring that the educational needs of these children will continue to be served.
Sarah Brodsky, former Show-Me Institute policy analyst and still regular contributor to this blog, suggested last year that tuition tax credits are the best solution for Missouri’s autistic students, who generally don’t have access to the special educational programs they need in Missouri’s traditional public schools. Insurance plans generally fail to meet these students’ needs, as Brodsky points out:
Kids with autism may need up to 30 hours each week of behavioral modification, help with social skills, music therapy, and personal attention — in other words, a special school environment. Health insurance companies are set up to pay for medical treatment — which is only one part of the services autistic kids need — not to pay tuition.
Tuition tax credits are an especially useful solution in this case, because — as pointed out in an early 2008 Show-Me Institute study, “The Fiscal Effects of a Tuition Tax Credit Program in Missouri” — tuition tax credit programs can be constructed in such a way that they actually save the state money, so even more existing educational funding can be devoted to traditional public schools:
Opponents argue that such legislation would “cost” the state a significant amount of money, because it would decrease funding to public schools by the amount of the lost tax revenue from the credit. We demonstrate, however, that the net fiscal cost of a tuition tax credit program would actually be considerably lower than the lost tax revenues, and might even raise net revenues for the state. […] If such savings occur, it means that additional revenues will be available for students who remain in public schools, for other state programs such as Medicaid, or for tax reduction.
Congratulations to the people of Arizona for obtaining a little more educational freedom. Here’s hoping that they expand their program still more, to include all willing students, and that Missouri follows suit in bringing a new variety of educational options to all children throughout the state.