Originally Published: March 6, 2011 9:44 p.m.
Arizona taxpayers are unknowingly subsidizing private and religious schools, diverting dollars away from public education.
Arizona residents and corporations can get a tax credit, dollar for dollar, by contributing to a School Tuition Organization (STO), which then grants scholarships to private schools. These not-for-profit organizations are run by the various groups including the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, several Lutheran organizations, a Jewish organization, and one by an Arizona state legislator, Steve Yarbrough (R-Chandler), that is the largest in the state. STO owners can keep up to 10 percent of the revenue, which means that Mr. Yarbrough, who according to his own e-mails to constituents, pays himself a salary of nearly $100,000 a year, truly a sweetheart deal.
Private school scholarships are generally designed to help low income people, but in Arizona the income guideline of $75,467 for a family of four, is far above Arizona's median income. In addition, a recent study found that 76 percent of the grants awarded through STOs have gone to families whose children already attend private schools. So who is helping whom?
In my view, Arizona Republicans are again moving in the wrong direction. Education is a right in this country and should be offered to all children equally. Arizona is instead diverting dollars away from public schools and is subsidizing sectarian/partisan/parochial education for some children. An important fact to note is that Section 7 of the Arizona Constitution states "no sectarian instruction shall be imparted in any school ... "
Mr. Yarbrough should be prevented from lining his own pockets from a bill he sponsored, and the Republican Legislature should be ashamed for ignoring the Constitution regarding sectarian instruction and for continuing to diminish and cut the quality of public education in Arizona.