So in yesterday’s Republic, we found a supplement entitled “Grading Arizona’s Scholarship Organizations,” an evaluation of all the school tuition tax credit scholarship groups.
These are private organizations who collect and distribute the tuition tax credits designed for use at private schools. Remember the big selling point on these?
They would allow poor kids (“poor” defined as a family of four making no more than $46,000 a year) to “escape” the weak public schools they attended and be able to use these tax credit scholarships to attend better private schools.
That was a selling point, anyhow, maybe the big one (along with the “free enterprise” argument that competition would make all schools better).
But the reality seems a bit different.
The supplement evaluated, among other things, what percentage of the money collected is distributed to poor kids.
The four by far largest Scholarship Organizations have mixed records on that:
• Catholic Education Arizona gave 47% of its scholarships to poor kids; • Institute for Better Education gave 46% • Arizona Scholarship Fund gave 29% • And the largest organization in the state, the behemoth of the state, Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization gave only 22% of its scholarship money to poor kids.
And these organization are allowed to keep up to 10% of its donated funds for themselves (though the ACSTO says it keeps only 8% — that’s 8% of at least the $11 million) it gave out last year.
Guess who runs the largest of these groups, the AZCSTO? Why, it’s a state legislator, Steve Yarbrough. A state legislator who’s sponsored bills to expand the tax credit. And thus expand how much he gets to keep for himself as the head of the state’s largest STO.
So to recap: ”Well, we’ll try to help those poor kids, at least some of them, but hey, we’re making a pretty nice living on this set up.”
Which, to some, passes for “school reform” in Arizona.
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Bio: Mike McClellan has lived in Arizona since 1967 where he attended high school and the University of Arizona. McClellan taught high school English for 36 years, including 30 years at at Dobson High School in Mesa. He has been a contributing columnist to both the East Valley Republic editions and the East Valley Tribune.