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Arizona Awards Loan Guarantees To 2 Privately Owned Charter Schools

The state has awarded the first two loan guarantees to privately owned charter schools in a program that has raised questions about its legality.

The Academy of Math and Sciences is getting almost $25 million in what Gov. Doug Ducey is calling "credit enhancements," allowing the academy to borrow money at lower rates to expand existing campuses in west Phoenix and south Tucson.

And the Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center is getting $17 million to expand an existing campus west of Phoenix and to build a new campus in Mesa.

Tim Hogan is an attorney with the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest. He feels what the state is doing is unconstitutional.

"The constitution is quite clear that the state shall never give or loan its credit to any corporation," Hogan said. "Period. End of story. "

Gubernatorial spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said the loan guarantees are available to both traditional public schools as well as charter schools and doesn’t see the conflict.

"We see this as something that totally is in line with the state's obligation to educate students in our public schools," Scarpinato said.

The awards are the first since the legislature agreed last year to set aside $100 million to help privately run charter schools borrow money at lower interest rates.