School Voucher Measure Makes 2018 Ballot in Arizona
A coalition of parents and public-education advocates gathered enough signatures to let voters decide whether Arizona moves forward with or rejects a massive expansion of the state's school-voucher program.
Save Our Schools Arizona needed 75,321 valid signatures to refer the measure to the November 2018 ballot. State and county election officials have been poring over the more than 100,000 signatures turned in weeks ago by the large volunteer group.
On Tuesday, Maricopa County certified its batch of signatures and concluded the group had a success rate of nearly 87 percent. Three other counties still need to report their numbers, but regardless of the outcome in those countries the referendum effort was successful, said Eric Spencer, the state elections director.
"Absent what happens in court, it is guaranteed to make the ballot," Spencer told The Arizona Republic. "At this point, I see an 87 percent statewide-verification rate, and it only needed to get 70 percent in order to make the ballot ... It's a mathematical guarantee it will make the ballot, absent what happens in court."
The referendum will be known as Proposition 305.
The expansion of the Empowerment Scholarship Account program was supposed to go into effect in August but was put on hold pending the outcome of the referendum effort. Barring a loss in court, it will remain on hold until November 2018.
Gov. Doug Ducey, who whipped votes to expand the program last legislative session, and Republican state Sen. Debbie Lesko, of Peoria, who sponsored the measure, did not immediately respond to the newspaper's request for comment.
J.D. Mesnard, speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, said, "All options are on the table" for how to move forward. The Chandler Republican said he has not talked with Lesko, the Governor's Office or other expansion supporters about how to move forward.
Now that Save Our Schools Arizona has met the signature threshold, he said he expects those discussions will begin.
"At this point, everything's on the table ... whether that's a repeal, whether that's going ahead and letting it go to the ballot, whether it's a repeal and replace," Mesnard said. "I just don't know what we would do. One school of thought is you let it go to the ballot, and I think we win."