Opponents of Arizona’s universal school voucher program have now halted the diversion of public funds to private schools, at least until the voucher program is put to a public vote.
Governor Doug Ducey signed the program into law this spring, which would provide families with state-funded vouchers to use toward a private school education. Although some argue that the voucher program gives families more choice, opponents of the vouchers claim that the program will drain funding from already-underfunded public schools.
A grassroots organization, Save Our Schools Arizona, secured over 111,000 signatures to suspend the law until the November 2018 election. To halt the program, over 75,000 of those signatures had to be valid. County recorders randomly selected a 5% sample of signatures to certify the total number of valid signatures. Maricopa County election officials then reviewed almost 4,000 signatures, certifying over 3,400 as valid, thereby suspending the voucher program until it can be put to a vote.
However, supporters of the voucher program have now filed suit seeking to invalidate the upcoming referendum. The lawsuit, filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, contends that some of those circulating the petition did not comply with state election laws, which required their registration as paid circulators.
If a judge rules in the supporters’ favor, the signatures gathered by those circulators could be disqualified and the number of valid signatures would then need to be recounted for the referendum to proceed.
As of now, Arizona’s universal voucher program will not take effect unless and until Arizona voters approve it on the ballot during the November 2018 general election.