PHOENIX — Foes of giving out more vouchers of tax dollars to let kids go to private and parochial schools filed petitions Tuesday with more than 111,000 signatures to force the issue to a public vote.
The group, Save Our Schools, contends that SB 1431 will drain dollars from an already underfunded public school system.
“Class sizes have swelled to almost 40 children per teacher,” said Beth Lewis, a fifth grade teacher in the Tempe Elementary School District.
“Many schools no longer have tutoring, school nurses, summer school or field trips,” she said at a press conference after the petitions were delivered to the secretary of state’s office. “What more can be cut?”
But Sen. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, the prime mover behind expanded vouchers, said giving parents vouchers so they have more choices of where to send their children to school does not harm the public schools they leave. And she cited figures from legislative budget analysts who said the vouchers clost less than state aid to public schools, with the legislation actually saving state dollars.
Lewis said even assuming there are fewer children in public schools they’re still stuck with the fixed overhead costs of administration, buses and even maintaining the facilities.
And Dawn Penich-Thacker said what can’t be ignored is that Arizona is already at or near the bottom of the nation in the amount of state aid provided to public schools.
“Arizona’s public schools are already starving,” she said. Penich-Thacker called diverting some of the dollars to private and parochial schools “the equivalent of taking food off the plate of a starving child and saying, ‘Well, I left you a crumb.’ ”
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