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Data offers clues about who's applying for Arizona school vouchers under universal expansion plan

The Arizona Department of Education reports that as of Aug. 29, it had received 6,773 applications for school vouchers, formally known as Empowerment Scholarship Accounts or ESAs.

That’s after state lawmakers and Gov. Doug Ducey this year expanded the program to make all 1.1 million public school students in Arizona eligible for the program. Previously, it had been limited to students with special needs, those in D- or F-rated schools, foster children, children of military families and those living on reservations. Under the universal expansion plan, families would get about $7,000 toward their student’s education.

The Department of Education also estimates of those new applications, around 75% of them are for students who have not been in public school before. But whether those students will be able to use an ESA is in doubt.

Critics of the universal expansion have been collecting signatures to refer the plan to voters. They have until Sept. 23 to collect nearly 119,000 signatures. If they do, the law would be put on hold until Arizonans have their say in 2024.

The Show heard from two perspectives on this.

Rebecca Gau is executive director of Stand for Children Arizona and an opponent of universal ESAs. I spoke with her earlier and asked what stands out to her from the data released by the state education department.

Supporters, though, are hopeful the program will go into effect later this month. State Sen. Paul Boyer is one of them.

The Show spoke with both of them.

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Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.