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From White Mountain Independent
From White Mountain Independent

Local public, private school officials weigh in on voucher issue

Posted On: 2017-04-12 04:14 PM
From White Mountain Independent...

By Bob Martinson The Independent Apr 11, 2017

WHITE MOUNTAINS — The effect of children leaving public schools in the White Mountains may be minimal in comparison to other areas of the state; however, there is a concern to follow the money.

Kristen Desmangles, president of the White Mountain Montessori School Board, a private school, says the school welcomes the bill.

“The White Mountain Montessori School applauds any advance made by the state of Arizona which provides the opportunity for parents to choose the educational options for their student which best suits that student’s needs," she said. "We look forward to welcoming children this year who join our White Mountain Montessori School Family through this new Empowerment Scholarship Account Program. These children may be coming to us from either a school struggling to best serve the children due to larger class sizes or other varied reasons to attend our school.

"With the ESA, parents from all over the rural White Mountain Community, to include our neighboring tribal friends, now will have more options to decide which educational path is the best fit for their student. Whether their decision includes our school, another private school, charter or home school, the children in this program will be able to receive the education and resources needed to best set them up for success, as the family decides which path in their educational journey will bring the most opportunity to grow their developing mind in the manner which is best for them.”

Show Low Unified School District Superintendent Shad Housley said with only 5,500 voucher recipients state-wide per-year, “the impact for Show Low is that we might see some students taking advantage of a voucher, but I don’t know how large the impact could be. There aren’t a lot of private schools on the mountain.”

Housley said the vouchers are not a "dollar-for-dollar" accounting of taxes.

"If you do take a voucher for your student, you won’t qualify for the Arizona State Education tax-credit of $400 off your taxes as well," he said. "(The Legislature) also removed accountability on how the voucher's are spent. You can pay for a whole host of things; not too many private or charter schools are just $4,400 per year.

"The saying on one side is that if I pay my taxes, I should be able to say how my money goes to educate my kids — and that's the voucher," he added. "The other side is that the amount of taxes that we all paid doesn't necessarily equal the amount that it costs to have my kid in public school, so the way a voucher could effect us is that 90 percent of the district's additional assistance, which is our capital money, and 90 percent of what can go into each school will also be put into this voucher. So as a school, the state's already taken over 85 percent of our capital money."

Housley said the lack of capital funding is failing public schools.

"This year in Show Low, we needed about $1.4 million in capital money to keep our buildings up and things like that. We received about $162,000 this year from the state," he said. "Our capital money has been reduced by about 85 percent at this point. Some of the things in the formula for funding is just not equitable, dollar-for-dollar. Our schools are actually going to be losing funding in the general budget, and then how's that going to translate to us, who are already losing money?"

Sequoia Schools CEO Mark Plitzuweit said his school doesn't take a stance, for or against, ESAs signed by Ducey.

"As an organization, we support the philosophy and practice of school choice and the opportunity for all students to receive a high-quality education, no matter their individual circumstances," he said. "The state of Arizona continues to be the leader in high-quality school choice programs and Edkey Inc. (Sequoia Schools) will continue to provide an educational choice for all of Arizona’s students."

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Photos: From White Mountain Independent