Will Arizona Allow “Vouchers for all?”

During the recently-completed New Mexico legislative session, no progress was made in improving our State’s bottom-dwelling education system. The school choice tax credit bill, HB 207, did not make it out of the Ways and Means Committee in the House (a similar bill did pass the House last year). Fortunately, not all states are as beholden as New Mexico to teachers’ unions and the education establishment.

Take Arizona where their Senate just passed legislation that, if it becomes law, would allow every one of the more than 1 million students in Arizona the opportunity to attend private and parochial schools with tax dollars. Arizona’s plan mirrors reforms enacted first — and subsequently tied up in the courts — in Nevada.

School choice is showing results that are increasingly being verified by the empirical evidence. According to a new report from Louisiana (another school choice innovator):

* The Louisiana Scholarship Program has closed the achievement gap with the statewide average by almost half (44 percent gap reduction) over the last five years for students in grades 3-8 achieving at least “Basic” proficiency.

* Additionally, the report notes that the percentage of students in grades 3-8 receiving nonpublic school scholarships and achieving “mastery” on state assessments increased 4 percentage points, compared to a 3 percentage point increase for all students statewide. Likewise, the percentage of Scholarship students achieving at least “basic” increased 3 percentage points, compared to a 4 percentage point dip statewide.

* Program-wide, the Scholarship program’s increases in student achievement outpaced the majority of districts. If the Louisiana Scholarship Program were considered a school system with a system-wide performance score, the Louisiana Scholarship Program’s 4.7-point growth from 54.3 in 2014 to 59.0 in 2015 would have ranked 9th among all school systems for annual performance improvement.

Perhaps someday soon New Mexico will truly embrace school choice. Until then, I expect the State’s educational outcomes to lag.