School Choice in Arizona
Arizon has a variety of thriving school choice opportunities available to families. Interestingly enough, some of these existing options use the same mechanisms for school choice that are offered in the South Carolina school choice bill, H. 4894.
One of Arizona's longest-standing school choice opportunities is through Personal Tax Credits for School Tuition Organizations (STO) - Enacted in 1997, this program allows any contributor to a School Tuition Organization (the equivalent of an SGO in H.4894) to receive a credit on their personal state income taxes. Individuals may claim up to $500, and married couples filing jointly are eligible for up to $1,000. Individuals and married couples can also claim up to $200 - $400 respectively for donating to extracurricular programs at public schools. As of 2011 there were 53 STOs operating in Arizona.
Each of these STOs can vary the amount of student aid, with the law putting a $4,700 cap on scholarships for K-8 Students, and $6,000 for 9-12th graders. Interestingly enough, even with these fairly high caps, the average scholarship size in 2010 was $1,791. This average scholarship size represents only about 23% of what Arizona spends on each student in public schools.
It was clearly enough to be beneficial to the 26,453 students who enrolled in 367 participating private schools. In fact, over 25,000 students have been involved in the Personal Tax Credits for STOs program in the last four years. Finding donors who want to contribute hasn't been a problem either. Since 2000, the number of people contributing to the program has increased by 65%.
Unlike the legislation proposed in South Carolina - which focuses exclusively on low-income and special needs students - this Arizona program allows participating STOs free rein to determine their own eligibilty guidelines and focus, whether that be financial need, a particular area, or specific school system.
Established and successful school choice options like this one should take speculation about the destructive nature of parents having choices right off the table. Data showing the benefits of school choice are there for anyone with interest and motivation to investigate.