PHOENIX-At a policy forum releasing two new Goldwater Institute reports on Arizona's scholarship tax credit program, Sen. Mark Anderson (R-Mesa), Rep. John Huppenthal (R-Chandler), and U.S. Rep. Trent Franks expressed support for expansion of the five-year-old program to allow businesses to make contributions. Education scholars Carrie Lukas and Dan Lips described the successes of the program, which last year generated $26 million from 50,000 taxpayers. "The growth of the program has been sensational," said Lukas, who is director of policy for the Independent Women's Forum in Washington, D.C. "Contributions last year exceeded the 'high-growth' projection made in 2001 by nearly 20 percent."
Lukas found that roughly 4,000 of the state's 19,000 scholarship recipients would otherwise be enrolled in public schools. Although critics consider the program a "tax loophole" the state can't afford, Lukas found that because states and localities save roughly $4,700 for every student who transfers from public school to private school, those 4,000 students save the state $18.7 million, bringing the total cost of the system to $7.5 million. "Even better," Lukas said, "the more students who transfer from public school, the more money the state saves." Lukas projects that the program will begin to generate revenue for the state when 3,400 more students transfer from public to private schools. The Lukas study, The Arizona Scholarship Tax Credit: Providing Choice for Arizona Taxpayers and Students, is available online here.
Arizona Dream Foundation president Dan Lips presented findings from a new survey showing strong satisfaction among scholarship parents, who awarded their schools a median grade of "A". At the same time, charter school parents on a scholarship waiting list gave their schools a "B: and public school parents gave their schools a "C". The report, The Impact of Tuition Scholarships on Low-Income Families: A Survey of Arizona School Choice Trust Parents, is available here.
"Arizona's scholarship tax credit program has provided a real alternative to traditional schools for struggling kids," Lukas said. "Although no one has been able to document the existence of any abuses under the system, minor reforms would assure Arizona taxpayers that their donations are being used properly."
Author contacts: Carrie Lukas, Director of Policy, Independent Women's Forum, (202) 419-1820; Dan Lips, President, Arizona Dream Foundation, (602) 712-1277
Press contact: Tom Jenney, Director of Communications, Goldwater Institute, (602) 712-1257