Editor's note: As expected, Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed the private-school voucher bill on May 9.
PHOENIX — The Senate yesterday joined the House in narrowly voting to include
private-school vouchers and another school-choice measure in an all-day
kindergarten bill — a combination that Gov. Janet Napolitano has said ensures a
Lawmakers also said they expected a veto, but supporters of the bill
expressed hope that some compromise could be reached in budget negotiations with
The Democratic governor is a steadfast opponent of vouchers — taxpayer-funded
grants to pay for private-school tuition. Under the bill, vouchers could be used
to fund tuition at secular or religious schools, which some opponents say would
violate separation of church and state.
A new corporate income-tax credit for businesses’ donations for private
scholarships is also attached to the bill. Napolitano earlier this year vetoed a
different bill to create the new tax credit, which she has called a “backdoor
All-day kindergarten is a top budget priority for Napolitano, who on March 21
vetoed a Republican-drafted budget that didn’t include money for that program
launched last year at Napolitano’s urging.
“As long as you have kindergarten with vouchers, you don’t have a bill that I
will sign,” Napolitano said earlier yesterday.
She declined to say whether she’d accept the bill, H.B.
2782, if lawmakers dropped the vouchers but kept the tax credit. “I’m not
going to bargain with the Legislature through the press,” she said.
Republicans said the bill represented a compromise in which she’d get the
all-day kindergarten funding she wants and Republicans would get the measures
that they say would increase parents’ educational choices for their
“Some compromise is required for her to get all-day kindergarten and the bill
to move forward,” said Sen. Dean Martin, R-Phoenix.
“Apparently the governor doesn’t know the meaning of the word compromise,”
said Sen. Jack Harper, R-Sun City West.
Sen. Linda Aguirre, a Phoenix Democrat who has championed all-day
kindergarten, criticized the Republicans’ linkage.
“That’s really unfair to the children of Arizona that you’ve taken their bill
and added these amendments onto it,” she said.
The Senate approved the kindergarten bill on a 16-13 vote. Sixteen votes are
required for passage by the 30-member Senate. The House approved the bill on May
2, but the bill now returns to that chamber for consideration of changes made by
the Senate, a step that could take place today.
House Speaker Jim Weiers, R-Phoenix, told representatives yesterday that the
House would consider other budget bills today.
During the Senate’s action yesterday on the kindergarten bill, majority
Republicans rejected Democratic amendments to delete the voucher and tax-credit
proposals and to impose accountability measures on private schools which accept
Republican amendments approved by the Senate deleted requirements in the
original bill to impose achievement standards for voucher students and require
private schools to accept voucher students on a random basis.
The bill includes $38 million to roughly double the state’s funding for
all-day kindergarten by adding dollars for an additional 9,000 students.
The voucher program would establish cash grants of up to $3,500 for students
from low-income families. The vouchers would start in the 2006-07 school year
with 1,500 kindergarten students at an initial cost of $5.5 million. One grade
and 1,500 students would be added each subsequent year.
While supporters say vouchers would provide children and their parents with
new education choices, Napolitano and other opponents contend vouchers would
divert money from the public school system.
The state already has an individual income tax credit for donations to
organizations which provide private school tuition scholarships.