Current research in education demonstrates that true reform of American's educational system requires a shift from the existing political/bureaucratic system to a highly decentralized system which provides parents choices among competing schools. Necessarily this new system requires that funding follow students to the schools of their choice. One method for providing parents choice in education is to provide them with a voucher for the educational funding of each of their children. Parents then use this voucher to enroll their children in the public or private (including sectarian private) schools of their choice.
Voucher systems have been criticized in Arizona and nationally as violating state and federal constitutional provisions. In its report, the Goldwater Institute Working Group on Educational Reform investigates educational vouchers as they relate to four U.S. and Arizona constitutional issues:
- Separation of church and state
- Racial discrimination
- Gender discrimination
- Equalization of school finance
The Goldwater Institute Working Group finds that since state funding goes to parents and they decide where to send their children, there is no violation of Arizona or U.S. constitutional provisions requiring separation of church and state. The U.S. and Arizona constitutions prohibit racial discrimination by any school participating in a voucher system, but constitutional provisions do not require the establishment of "racial balance" quotas in schools not under court desegregation orders. Single sex schools are probably permissible if the school can demonstrate a long standing tradition and an important educational reason for the schools. There is no Arizona or US constitutional requirement that funding for students be perfectly equalized among students in Arizona. These findings indicate there are no substantial constitutional impediments to the establishment of an educational voucher system in Arizona.