Appeals Court Denies Request to Block School Choice Program

| June 6 2013

Ruling keeps education savings accounts program intact for hundreds of Arizona families

The Arizona Court of Appeals denied a request to block Arizona’s landmark education savings account program Tuesday, leaving the program intact for the hundreds of Arizona families using accounts.

First passed in 2011, education savings accounts make up a first-of-its kind program that enables parents to use funds that would have been spent on their children in traditional public school to tailor an education experience that meets a child’s unique needs, including private school tuition, homeschooling expenses, or education therapy. Initially available only to special-needs children, the Arizona Legislature expanded the program last year to children of active-duty military families, children adopted out of the state’s foster system, and children in “D” and “F”-rated public schools. That expansion makes nearly 200,000—or one in five—Arizona families eligible for education savings accounts.

The Arizona Education Association and the Arizona School Boards Association sued the state over the program in 2011, arguing that education savings accounts violate state constitutional provisions that prohibit the expenditure of state funds for private or religious schools. The Goldwater Institute joined the State in defending the law, in order to protect the right of parents to make education choices for their children. Last year, a superior court judge ruled that the program is constitutional because it does not distribute funds to private institutions—instead, the program transfers funds to parents, not schools, who then use the money to choose the education experience that fits their child best.

“The children of Arizona have once again won an important victory in this case,” said Clint Bolick, Vice President of Litigation at the Goldwater Institute. “Today’s ruling paves the way for the hundreds of additional children who will be using education savings accounts in the upcoming school year.”

The Arizona Court of Appeals is expected to rule on the case as a whole later this year. Regardless of the outcome at the appeals court, the case is likely bound for state supreme court. Nearly 40 states have similar state constitutional provisions to the one at issue in this lawsuit, signaling that the outcome of this case could clear the way for lawmakers across the country to create similar school choice programs for families in their states.

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To read more about the case, please visit www.goldwaterinstitute.org. To schedule an interview with the Goldwater Institute, please contact Lucy Caldwell, (602) 633-8986.

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