What a shock! Senator Debbie Lesko is a liar, but then, you already knew that.
Lesko is the prime sponsor of the school “vouchers for all” bill, SB 1431, claiming that vouchers will save the state money. This right-wing ideologue is no economist, and those who get paid to know such things beg to differ.
The Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) has issued a report that says the “vochers for all bill” will actually increase costs to the state and will not result in a savings as its prime sponsor is claiming.
Don’t you just hate it when they call you out like that, Debbie?
The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports, JLBC concludes voucher expansion will increase costs to state:
Making vouchers universally available to pay for all children to attend private and parochial schools will actually increase costs to the state according to a legislative budget analysis and not result in a savings as its prime sponsor is claiming.
The report by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee figures the state will shell out an extra $13.9 million by 2020 if 2.6 percent of students move from traditional public schools to private schools.
But that’s only part of the issue.
SB1431 also would allow parents of kindergartners to get vouchers without ever having to first enroll their children in a public school and without any evidence of whether they were going to put their children in private schools anyway. And the report puts the cost of providing vouchers for them at another $10.6 million above what the state would otherwise pay to educate them in public schools, putting the total pricetag by 2020 at $24.5 million.
Even that may not be the end: If more than 2.6 percent of parents are interested in getting $5,600 vouchers — formally called “empowerment scholarship accounts” — the hit to the state treasury would be even higher.
And budget analysts warn there are other changes in the legislation that could boost even further the number of students seeking vouchers.
The report comes as SB1491 to create universal vouchers by 2020 awaits a vote in the full Senate and the House is poised to vote on HB2394 with identical language. Sen. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, is promoting the plan as a method of saving money.
She says it takes $9,529 to educate a typical child in Arizona public schools. That, she argues, makes the $5,600 voucher for a non-disabled student a bargain.
But the report says that figure includes what schools get in both federal dollars as well as what they raise from local taxpayers. When just the cost to the state is considered, vouchers are more expensive.
This report will give new ammunition to foes who contend vouchers further drain dollars from a public school system that is inadequately funded.
It isn’t just that Arizona is near the bottom of all states in the amount of aid it provides for students. There also is the low teacher pay, a factor that state School Superintendent Diane Douglas said causes 20 percent of new teachers to leave within the first year and another 20 percent the second year.
Lesko told Capitol Media Services she will not comment on the report until meets with the budget analysts who prepared it.
But Lesko said she will not abandon the legislation even if there is a net cost to the state budget.
Of course not, that’s what makes Lesko a right-wing ideologue.
The Senate vote could be close: While Republicans holding a 17-13 advantage, Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, already is opposed. That could leave Sen. Frank Pratt, R-Casa Grande, as the deciding vote. And Pratt said Wednesday he has not yet made up his mind.
At the heart of the financial issue is that vouchers are equal to 90 percent of what the state would pay in aid to send a child to a charter school. The state gives more to charters than to traditional public schools because they do not have access to local dollars and bonds.
So if a student uses a voucher to move from a charter school to a private one, the state saves $600.
But the report figures it costs the state an extra $800 for each student who uses a voucher to leave a public school.
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Lesko noted that current law limits the number of vouchers to no more than one-half of one percent of the approximately 1.1 million students in public and charter schools, or about 5,500. But that cap self-destructs in 2020. Using that presumed 2.6 percent migration from public schools, the report figures that there would be 25,400 students moving to private schools with the aid of vouchers, at a cost of nearly $13.9 million.
And if it turns out that 5 percent of public school students want vouchers, the cost approaches $26.8 million.
The report also estimates there would be 2,600 kindergartners who start out in private school and whose parents would take the vouchers to help defray their costs. Since they never attended public schools — and perhaps never intended to go there — there is no savings in what would have been state aid. That adds another $10.6 million to the price tag by 2020.
But here, too, the report says the costs for kindergartners could approach $21.6 million if more parents opt for vouchers.
And remember, this is a Tea-Publican controlled legislature whose dogmatic commandment is “Thou shalt never raise taxes,” so how do they intend to pay for these additional education costs when they won’t raise taxes to support pubic education now? Their only option is to cut all other government services so they can steer public tax dollars to for-profit private and parochial schools (and those who profit from them, like Senator Steve Yarbrough).
Contact your state legislators and tell them to kill these unconstitutional bills, SB 1491 and HB 2394, Stop the insanity!