We hope you like our new ASTOA’s members site. We are glad you have enrolled for the upcoming year as an ASTOA member. Membership gets you many things and will continue to grow as the year proceeds. Please stay tuned here for important updates on private school choice related topics.
On the right is the menu where you can enter our blog site and ask questions. There is a place to get a Membership Badge to put on your website. There is a section for Resources and Documents valuable to an STO.
Also, to logout of this site, you will find the Logout on the very top right side of the page, next to your organization’s name.
One thing we need you to do is to vote for new officers for the 2011-12 year. Click on VOTE HERE! and cast your votes.
(To a Corporate Donor)
I am writing you to share my son’s progress over the last two months. It has been nothing short of miraculous and has changed our family. Nathan attends a private school for children with developmental delays and is one of five in his class. With one teacher and two aids he receives a lot of one on one attention. He has prospered in his new loving and supportive environment at school. Since he began school, we have seen more progress in the last two months than he had in two years of public school. Nathan is starting to speak in small sentences and ask questions, something he has never done. We are finally being able to communicate with our son, he understands us and we can understand him, something that a lot of parents of typical children can take for granted.
Donations from people like you can change the lives of children like my son Nathan and their families. My son has been given an amazing opportunity and gift and I will never be able to say thank-you enough.
Despite a tight turnaround time for applications, Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) law has proven highly popular among Arizona families and, in its first year, will provide more than 100 families with the opportunity to send their children to the schools of their choice. In fact, 167 families and their children with special needs were awarded an ESA by the Arizona Department of Education for the Fall 2011 school semester.
The American Federation for Children, a leading school choice advocacy organization, praised the innovative new program–the only of its kind in the nation. Sponsored by State Senator Rick Murphy and House Majority Whip Debbie Lesko as SB 1553 and signed by Governor Jan Brewer in the last legislative session, ESAs allow parents of children with special needs to receive an account that the parents can use to choose the best educational services and environment for their children.
The Arizona School Boards Association sent a letter asking Attorney General Horne to nullify the law. A deadline for the Attorney General to respond to their letter has passed. That means that the law will stand barring a lawsuit. Read more…
School may be out for the summer, but school choice is in, as states across the nation have moved to expand education opportunities for disadvantaged kids. This year is shaping up as the best for reformers in a very long time.
No fewer than 13 states have enacted school choice legislation in 2011, and 28 states have legislation pending. Last month alone, Louisiana enhanced its state income tax break for private school tuition; Ohio tripled the number of students eligible for school vouchers; and North Carolina passed a law letting parents of students with special needs claim a tax credit for expenses related to private school tuition and other educational services.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker made headlines this year for taking on government unions. Less well known is that last month he signed a bill that removes the cap of 22,500 on the number of kids who can participate in Milwaukee’s Parental Choice Program, the nation’s oldest voucher program, and creates a new school choice initiative for families in Racine County. “We now have 13 programs new or expanded this year alone” in the state, says Susan Meyers of the Wisconsin-based Foundation for Educational Choice. Read more…
Washington, D.C. (June 16, 2011) – Forty-two states have introduced legislation in 2011 to create or expand school voucher and scholarship tax credit programs, according to an analysis completed today by the American Federation for Children — the nation’s voice for school choice.
If these bills pass, millions of children would have the opportunity to attend the private schools of their parents’ choice, demonstrating historic momentum for the popular educational choice movement.
Fifty-four bills create or expand voucher programs and 42 bills create or expand tax credit scholarship programs. Many bills often target disadvantaged children, including 27 bills for special needs children, two bills for military children, and two bills for children in foster care, according to AFC analyst Michelle Gininger, who conducted the research.
Since the beginning of the year, 12 bills have been enacted in nine states that will create, expand, and restore highly accountable and effective school choice programs. Read more…
In a rare effort to blunt the governor’s veto, the Legislature passed a scaled-back bill early Wednesday to further expand private-school tuition
An amendment to Senate Bill 1186 would still increase the donation limits for individuals and married couples by 50 percent, but it would do so by allowing them to contribute all the extra funds to a similar program set up for corporations.
Lawmakers abandoned several provisions of the vetoed bill, including one that would have allowed unlimited dollar-for-dollar tax credits for corporations.
The changes dropped the estimated price tag from $16.8 million to about $9 million, according to the nonpartisan Joint Legislative Budget Committee.
The number of students who must use the tax-credit scholarships for it to become cost-neutral also fell, from 3,300 under the original bill to 1,700 under the new one.
“She’s going to be looking at that bill closely in the days ahead, but she doesn’t have a determination on it just yet,” said Matthew Benson, a spokesman for Gov. Jan Brewer. It is just one of the 168 bills she must weigh by May 2.
“This governor has a very strong record on school choice,” Benson said. “At the same time, she has been adamant that we not do things that throw the budget out of balance.”
Brewer seemed primarily worried about the original bill’s cost.
Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, guided the revised plan through the Legislature.
He tacked it on to a lengthy bill adjusting tax language affecting several programs, including the jobs program Brewer signed into law earlier this year.
“We went through (the veto letter) with a fine-tooth comb,” said Yarbrough, who also operates the state’s largest school-tuition organization, which distributes tax-credit donations from individuals to private-school scholarships.
“We’re hopeful she’ll sign (the new bill).”
Brewer’s veto of House Bill 2581 was seen by some as a surprise snub to school-choice advocates, who only days earlier had celebrated a 5-4 victory in the U.S. Supreme Court that made it harder to legally challenge the tax-credit program.
Brewer’s veto sparked a one-sided outcry last week.
The tax-credit legislation generated 337 messages to her in favor of signing HB 2581, and only four against it, a spokeswoman said. Yarbrough said he had no role in that response.
The corporate tax-credit program has several key differences from the more-popular program for individual taxpayers.
Scholarship recipients must be switching from public to private schools, and donors cannot recommend recipients.
Also, scholarships must go to students with family incomes within 185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. For a family of four, that’s about $41,348 this year.
Under the new bill, an individual could contribute $750 between the two programs; a married couple filing jointly could contribute $1,500.
Read the full article here.
Phoenix, Arizona (April 15, 2011) – State and national school choice organizations today called on Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to reverse her opposition to legislation that would allow thousands of children from poor and working-class families to attend the private schools of their parents’ choice.
On Tuesday, Brewer vetoed legislation that would have expanded the state’s two scholarship tax credit programs while saving tax dollars and stimulating the economy.
The organizations — including the American Federation for Children, the Alliance for School Choice, the Foundation for Educational Choice, the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, and the Education Breakthrough Network — called on Brewer to reach an agreement with state legislators to expand the state’s highly popular Corporate and Individual School Tuition Organization Tax Credit Programs. Brewer vetoed legislation that would have lifted the donation cap on the corporate program and expanded its base of funding. The vetoed legislation would have also benefited Arizona taxpayers by increasing the amount of their tax credit for STO contributions in the individual program.
“We are deeply disappointed that a leader who has consistently championed school choice would now deny scholarships to thousands of children,” said John Schilling, the Chief Operating Officer of the American Federation for Children and a former Associate Superintendent of Public Instruction at the Arizona Department of Education.
The organizations praised Brewer’s decision to sign into law an Education Savings Account bill for children with special needs — but said that her veto of scholarship tax credit program expansion legislation ignores the growing demand for school choice in the state.
“School Tuition Organizations across the state have waiting lists that number thousands of students,” said Schilling. “The futures of children in Arizona require that Governor Brewer reconsider her decision and work with the legislature to continue the positive trajectory of education reform in the state.”
As of this school year, 3,636 children benefit from the Corporate School Tuition Organization Tax Credit Program, and 27,476 children benefit from the Individual School Tuition Organization Tax
INDIANAPOLIS – The Foundation for Educational Choice today called Gov. Jan Brewer’s veto of the expansion of an education tax credit program a “sad travesty” and urged the governor to rethink her veto immediately.
“Gov. Brewer has been a friend of school choice, but her veto flies in the face of her past support and is a tragedy for the thousands of children who need greater educational options,” said Robert Enlow, President and CEO of the Foundation.
“Everyone knows that when states expand tax credit programs, it saves state budgets money since it costs less to educate children with a tax credit scholarship,” added Enlow. “That’s why Gov. Brewer’s veto makes no sense.”
The proposal adopted by the Arizona Legislature and vetoed this week would have increased the amount of tax credit that taxpayers would have earned if they donated to Arizona’s School Tuition Organizations. The legislation would have lifted the cap on the amount of money that could have been donated under the state’s corporate program and expanded its base of funding.
“Arizona students are waiting in line for scholarships yet Gov. Brewer chose to veto a vehicle that would have given children more choice,” Enlow said.
In 2009, there were 27,582 students who earned scholarships averaging $1,889 under the Arizona Corporate School Tuition Organization Tax Credit Program and the Individual School Tuition Organization Tax Credit Program.
Last week the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Arizona’s tax credit program was constitutional. It said that the program passed constitutional muster because those that challenged the program – especially the American Civil Liberties Union – didn’t have standing to bring suit to the court and those that contributed to scholarship organizations did so on a voluntary basis.
Last week may have been the school-choice movement’s best effort in a long time, with Arizona leading the way for systemic education reform and expanded opportunities.
Monday the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the latest challenge to Arizona’s tuition scholarship tax-credit program, which provides dollar-for-dollar tax credits for contributions to private school scholarships. Following the reasoning of the Arizona Supreme Court, the high court ruled that because tax credits leave money in the hands of taxpayers, they never become public funds. As a result, under federal law, taxpayers do not have standing to challenge the program.
Later in the week, the Arizona Legislature increased the amount of the tax credit for the scholarship program from $1,000 to $1,500 per couple.
Then on Thursday, the Arizona Legislature became the first in the country to approve education savings accounts, an idea born at the Goldwater Institute. When eligible students leave public schools, the state will fund an account with a portion of the dollars that would have been spent on their public education. Money in an ESA can be used for many educational purposes, from distance learning to private school tuition, curriculum software, or tutoring. Any money left over can be used for college after a student graduates from high school. ESAs reduce taxpayer costs while increasing schooling options.
The initial pilot is limited to children with disabilities, who lost their voucher program in 2009 when the Arizona Supreme Court struck it down under the state constitution. This program is designed to comply with the Court’s ruling in that case.
ESAs have the potential to create a truly 21st century system of public education, in which every child is empowered to pursue the best possible schooling without stifling and costly bureaucracy and special-interest pressures. The bill creating the pilot program now awaits action from Governor Jan Brewer.
Finally, amidst the contentious federal budget deal just before midnight D.C.-time, Congress reauthorized the District of Columbia school voucher program, whose expansion congressional Democrats had previously halted. Now the Obamas will no longer be the only people in D.C. who live in public housing who get to send their kids to private school.
The Goldwater Institute will continue to pioneer such student-centered education reforms, while celebrating unprecedented success.
Clint Bolick is director of the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.
Goldwater Institute: Education Savings Accounts: Giving Parents Control of Their Children’s Education
Goldwater Institute: New Harvard report on tuition tax credit debunks myths
Washington Post: Budget deal includes D.C. abortion rider, money for school vouchers
Arizona Legislature: Senate Bill 1553 authorizing education savings accounts