July 1, 2024

Casey Tolan, Rene Marsh, Nelli Black: Arizona is sending taxpayer money to religious schools — and billionaires see it as a model for the US

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Three CNN reporters provided a dynamite story about how Arizona is subsidizing private religious schools with taxpayer dollars, and how certain rich folks want that for the whole country.

Arizona was the first state in the country to enact a universal “education savings account” program – a form of voucher that allows any family to take tax dollars that would have gone to their child’s public education and spend the money instead on private schooling.

A CNN investigation found that the program has cost hundreds of millions of dollars more than anticipated, disproportionately benefited richer areas, and funneled taxpayer funds to unregulated private schools that don’t face the same educational standards and antidiscrimination protections that public schools do. Since Arizona’s expanded program took effect in 2022, according to state data, it has sent nearly $2 million to Dream City and likely sapped millions of dollars from Paradise Valley’s budget.

And Arizona is hardly alone: universal voucher programs are sweeping Republican-led states, making it one of the right’s most successful efforts to rewrite state policy after decades of setbacks.

The cause has been bolstered by a small group of billionaires who have quietly spent millions of dollars on election campaigns and lobbying to push vouchers around the country. Supporters argue that the programs give families greater freedom in choosing their children’s schools, and help less affluent kids in failing public schools achieve a better education.

Critics say the problems in Arizona are a warning of potential dangers as other states follow its lead. “We’re the canary in the coal mine,” said Trevor Nelson, an education activist and a parent in the Paradise Valley district where public schools are closing. “We’re on the front lines, and what happens here is going to dictate what happens in the rest of the country.”

It’s a well-researched in-depth story, and if you keep meaning to read it, now’s the time. Follow this link to the full report

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