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Private Choice in Public Programs

16 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2010  

Dick Carpenter

University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

Date Written: October 7, 2010


In 2006, the Arizona Legislature passed two new educational voucher programs, each worth $2.5 million annually, for children in foster care and for children with disabilities. On November 14, 2006, school choice opponents filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the programs. Yet, as this report details, for decades the State of Arizona has operated voucher-style programs just like the new educational scholarships. These programs, ranging from educational aid to welfare to adoption assistance, give aid directly to those in need and allow them to spend it on the service provider of their choice, including public agencies, private organizations and even, in most programs, religious schools and institutions. Similarly, school choice plans like Arizona’s give scholarships directly to qualifying parents who can then select the public, private or religious school of their choice. Indeed, we found that Arizona already had six different educational voucher programs that help more than 22,000 students annually attend the public, private or religious school of their choice. And the total annual cost of $22 million for these programs dwarfs the $5 million allotted for Arizona’s new school choice programs. This report shows that voucher programs that give recipients the free and independent choice of an array of providers, including faith-based organizations, have a long and established history in Arizona. Vouchers for foster children and those with disabilities represent only a modest addition to a long-standing and sensible policy of providing services through efficient choice-based programs for those most in need.

Keywords: school choice, tax credits

JEL Classification: I28

Suggested Citation

Carpenter, Dick, Private Choice in Public Programs (October 7, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Dick Carpenter (Contact Author)

University of Colorado, Colorado Springs ( email )

1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway
Colorado Springs, CO 80918-7150
United States

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