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Private School Tax Credits & Vouchers Undermine Public Schools

Like Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (a.k.a. vouchers), Arizona’s private school tax credits take money away from public schools and give it to private schools without accountability or budget controls. More than $100 million was diverted to private schools from the state budget in 2013 due to the use of these tax credits. That amount will increase because the tax credits are designed to grow substantially every year.

STO chartJust like vouchers, supporters of private school tax credits have argued that they make private school an option for students in low income families, but the facts don’t match. Three out of four of the tax credits for private schools have no income requirement at all for students receiving the scholarships.

Reforms are needed to make these credits more accountable, to control their growth, and to focus funds exclusively on scholarships for students who couldn’t afford private schools without financial help. There are four common sense reforms described in our recently released policy brief that would make private school tax credits more accountable and more targeted for students in need.

Click here to read about those reforms and more about the flaws inherent in the current system.

News Conference: Legislative Policies on Private School Tax Credits, Empowerment Scholarships Bad for Student Success

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News Conference: Legislative Policies on Private School Tax Credits, Empowerment Scholarships Bad for Student Success

(Phoenix, AZ) – Children’s Action Alliance and the Arizona Business and Education Coalition will hold a news conference in Phoenix tomorrow to release a policy brief on private school tax credits (STOs). Additionally, representatives will discuss the measure going through the state legislature that would allow unprecedented amounts of K-12 public school monies to be diverted to private schools through the expansion of vouchers, known as Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs).

Dana Wolfe Naimark
CEO, Children’s Action Alliance

Dick Foreman
CEO, Arizona Business and Education Coalition

Arizona State Senate Lawn
1700 W Washington St, Phoenix

Thursday, February 25, 1:30 p.m.

Release of policy brief on private school tax credits
Discussion of consequences of tax credits and ESA’s on public education

Private school tax credits are growing at an astronomical rate. Both private school tax credits and ESAs lack accountability and remove resources from the public school infrastructure.


Urge Your State Representatives to Vote NO on School Vouchers

We need your help, and we need it immediately. On Wednesday, Feb. 24, the state House will vote on the expansion of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA), HB 2482. These ESAs are vouchers that give parents a debit card with money they can spend on tutoring, private school, home school, or anything they say is for their child’s education.

Right now, they are limited to students who meet certain criteria, but HB 2482 would open the door for any student to use, with no success measures nor accountability attached. These vouchers come with  NO student assessments, NO report cards for the educational programs, NO teacher evaluations.  HB 2482 would expand ESA vouchers to every student in Arizona, without any way to make sure those dollars are being spent wisely. In effect, ESA vouchers will undermine public schools, at a time when public education is struggling to meet high expectations with massive cuts in funding.canstockphoto11352158

While there is widespread support for temporary funding in Proposition 123, it means nothing if efforts to take money away from public schools and divert it to private education through  HB 2482 are successful.

We need you to be a voice for Arizona children and write your representatives NOW to urge them to vote NO on HB 2482.

Thank you.

Join Us This Saturday, Feb. 20 to Help Build a Better Budget for Kids

build a better budget draft workOne month ago, Governor Ducey released his budget proposal. In the big picture, the budget leaves Arizona stuck in neutral without improving children’s health, education, or security.  Lawmakers have already begun their closed door negotiations.  While the opportunity for public input is limited, it’s up to us to tell our leaders to build a better budget for children and families before the votes are counted.  Be part of the Build a Better Budget campaign with Children’s Action Alliance and parents and grandparents, teachers and social workers, neighbors and community leaders across the state.

Attached is a brief summary of what’s included in the Governor’s budget for children and families – and what’s missing. The Governor says his top goals are structural balance and opportunity for all. But his budget falls far short of those goals in several places:

Investment in public education doesn’t match expectations for educational achievement.The Governor’s budget once again cuts state funding per student (after adjusting for inflation).  While he includes a few new, small, one-time school grant programs under his control, there are no signals, strategies, or dollars for a long-term sustainable funding plan for public schools.  If Proposition 123 passes, the budget still leaves Arizona classrooms too crowded, short of teachers, using outdated textbooks and technology in buildings needing repair.

There are no strategies to prevent family crisis and save on long-term costs and liabilities.The Governor’s budget leaves thousands of low-income working families without affordable child care.  It leaves 30,000 children without affordable KidsCare health coverage – even though we can lift the enrollment freeze with no cost to the state budget, paid for by our federal taxes.  It leaves the poorest mothers and children without a safety net.  It leaves struggling parents without counseling or substance abuse treatment or mentoring or community services.  It cuts the budget for social work services that can keep families safely together and slow down the skyrocketing growth in foster care.  Taxpayers and Arizona’s economy will both pay the price of these missed opportunities in years to come.

Future cuts to education, children and families are hidden in the budget.The Governor’s budget accumulates large balances without saying how we should use them to build opportunity and strengthen Arizona’s economy.  The Governor says any new spending for ongoing programs will unbalance the budget.  But no budget can be called balanced if it shows only one side of the ledger.  He promises a tax cut but never says what tax, how much, or why.   In Arizona, tax cuts are forever.  They can only be changed with a 2/3 vote of the legislature.  Tax cuts passed today mean less funding tomorrow for K-12 education, universities, job training, health care, child care, and keeping children safe from abuse and neglect.

The state budget can be a powerful tool to reach our common goals for health, education, security and a vibrant, prosperous future. Here are three easy ways you can help Arizona build a better budget.

1. Join us at a meeting hosted by Representative Justin Olson in Gilbert at 10:00am at St. Xavier University, 92 W. Vaughn Ave. and at Glendale City Hall at 1:00pm on Saturday, February 20 and let him know our budget priorities.

2. Click here to customize an email message to your state senator and state representatives.

3. Share this information on Facebook and Twitter and with your neighbors.

Save the Date – State Budget Town Hall Meetings

SAVE THE DATEbuild a better budget draft work

Arizona State Budget Town Hall Meetings

State legislators have already begun negotiating the next fiscal year’s budget, and we need your involvement to tell our leaders to build a better budget for children and families before the votes are counted.  Be part of the Build a Better Budget campaign with Children’s Action Alliance, members of the community, parents, grandparents and others statewide to show your support for Arizona kids.

When: Saturday, February 20, 2016

Gilbert, 10AM

Glendale, 1PM

Locations TBD

We will provide an update with town hall locations as soon as they are confirmed. 

Join Us as We Honor the 2016 Phoenix Champion for Children

dancing girls for web usePlease join Children’s Action Alliance, community leaders, legislators and fellow advocates to honor our 2016 Phoenix Champion for Children, Kim VanPelt, Director of State Health Policy and Advocacy with St. Luke’s Health Initiatives.

The event takes place Thursday, February 25, 2016 at 5:30 pm. Tickets are $45, which can be purchased online. 

Kim is well-known and respected in the community for her tireless efforts to improve the quality of life for Arizona families through expanded health coverage and better public health policies. A longtime adviser on public health issues, Kim’s experience includes work in Arizona state government, including at First Things First and the Department of Health Services. She convened the Cover Arizona Coalition, which has helped hundreds of thousands of Arizonans get health insurance under the Affordable Care Act over the last three years.

Contact Sheryl Worthy or call (602) 266-0707 x. 219 for questions.


Your Voice is Being Heard at the Legislature

Dear Friends,

Thanks to your support, four bills that will improve children’s health, education and security have moved forward this week!

President and CEO Dana Wolfe Naimark testifies in support of lifting the freeze on KidsCare at the state legislature on Feb. 9.

President and CEO Dana Wolfe Naimark testifies in support of lifting the freeze on KidsCare at the state legislature on Feb. 9.

Our community showed strong and unified support for lifting the temporary freeze on KidsCare.  More than 100 of you signed in to the legislative system to support the bill and special thanks for the compelling testimony from Dr. Liz McKenna, Rabbi Schneider, Breann Westmore from March of Dimes, Len Kirschner from AARP, and Kelly Whitener from Georgetown University. The House Health Committee approved the bill with five members voting yes and one absent!!  Stay tuned for information on where the bill goes next…

The House Child and Family Services Committee approved bills to improve the continuity of child care, to allow more grandparents raising grandkids to participate in TANF financial assistance, and to get help for the Department of Child Safety in handling the backlog of cases.

Here is a sampling of news stories on KidsCare:

Arizona Daily Star, House Panel Approves Bill Restoring Health Insurance for Kids

KNXV, ABC-15 TV: Bill Restores Health Insurance for 30,000 Arizona Children

See our updated list of priority bills here.

Policy Experts, Community Leaders to Testify Before Legislature on KidsCare

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Local and national policy experts on children’s health coverage issues will be at the state legislature Tuesday afternoon as House Health Committee members consider HB 2309, a measure to lift the temporary freeze on KidsCare. Arizona is currently the only state in the nation without a Children’s Health Insurance Program, and has one of the highest rates of uninsured children in the country.

When: Tuesday, February 9, 2016
2:00 p.m. – Conclusion of Hearing
Where: State House Hearing Room 4
1700 W. Washington, Phoenix

In attendance will be the following policy and community leaders, who will be prepared to speak to the media and answer questions from reporters:

Dr. Elizabeth McKenna MD
Pediatrician and Owner
Healing Hearts Pediatrics (3 offices in Chandler, Gilbert, and Queen Creek, with over 20,000 patients)

Rabbi Jeremy Schneider
Temple Kol Ami
President of the Greater Phoenix Board of Rabbis

Breann Westmore
State Director of Program Services
March of Dimes

Kelly Whitener JD
Associate Professor of Practice
Georgetown University Center for Children and Families
Former Director of State Coverage Programs at the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which includes overseeing CHIP

Dana Wolfe Naimark
President and CEO
Children’s Action Alliance


We Need You to Reach Out to State Lawmakers on KidsCare

Your voice is needed at the legislature to help to get health coverage for Arizona kids. Right now, 160,000 Arizona children, many of whom are from working poor families, do not have health insurance and do not have access to affordable coverage options.

On Tuesday, February 9th at 2pm, the Health Committee in the House will be hearing HB 2309, geared toward lifting the enrollment freeze on Arizona’s KidsCare and providing access to health care for thousands of Arizona children. More importantly, reinstating KidsCare will cost the state nothing; it will be paid for with our federal tax dollars. 

We have made it easy for you to contact committee members. Simply click this link, and it will take you to a pre-written email message that can be customized to your liking and shared with others to also show their support for KidsCare. 

See why the KidsCare program is so important to Arizona and show our elected leaders that children’s health care is a major priority to you. 

Thank you.

Good News/Bad News Regarding First Things First

First the good news: Last week, House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 2037 stalled in the House Education Committee. This bill would have asked Arizonans to vote for a third time on their commitment to dedicate tobacco tax funds to children five and younger so that they arrive at school healthy and ready to succeed. The intent was to redirect the funds away from First Things First programs and services and instead assign them to school districts to pay for literacy programs for kindergarten through third graders. Our partners and allies came together very quickly to advocate against taking money away from one end of the literacy spectrum to give it to another.  Special thanks to Representative Paul Boyer, who chairs the Education Committee for agreeing to hold the bill indefinitely and instead committed to working together with First Things First to improve educational outcomes for children.  Little boy and girl in classroom

Please take a few moments and send Rep. Boyer your thanks here.

Our happiness was short lived, however, when this week, a slightly different version of the same bill was introduced. HCR 2044 is identical to the original bill except that it allows the first $30 million dollars of the dedicated tobacco tax funds to be used for programs that would qualify as matching state expenditures required under federal law. The rest of the funds would still go to K-3 literacy programs. Although it has not yet been assigned, we fully expect the bill to go to the House Appropriations committee in the near future. Please stay tuned for further information on how you can act to oppose this most recent attempt to eliminate funding for early education and family support.

To see CAA’s Priority Legislation List, click here