Action Alert

Empowerment Accounts SB 1553 (Action Alert 2011-1)

Stop Taxpayer Funding of Religious Schools

Secular Coalition for Arizona Action Alert number: 2011 - 1
Bill Number: SB 1553
Bill Name: Empowerment Accounts

Talking Points

  • Parochial schools, yeshivas, madrasas, and homeschools will be funded taxpayer money
  • Expensive constitutional lawsuits, costing more taxpayer money, are sure to follow
  • There is little accountability and transparency of taxpayer money, leading to fraud and waste
  • There is no requirement that special needs children actually attend schools more or appropriately qualified
  • There is no accountability of curriculum, leading to lower educational standards
  • Taxpayer will fund religious discrimination at "qualified schools"

Who should I contact?

All members of the House Committee on Ways and Means, whether they are your Representative or not.

When do I need to contact my legislators by?


When is this bill being voted on?

This bill is scheduled to be voted on in the House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means on Monday, March, 21, 2011 @ 2:00 pm.

House Committee on Ways and Means

Rep Rick Gray                         602-926-5993    
Rep Debbie Lesko                    602-926-5413   
Rep Ted Vogt                          602-926-3235    
Rep Javan "J.D." Mesnard        602-926-4481    
Rep Justin Olson                     602-926-5288    
Rep Jack W. Harper                 602-926-4178    
Rep Ruben Gallego                  602-926-3042    
Rep Tom Chabin                      602-926-5160    
Rep Steve Farley                     602-926-3022    

Bill Description

Senate Bill 1553, "Empowerment Accounts will allow taxpayer money to be removed from the public school system and funneled to religious schools.

Here's how it will work:

1)  Parents request an "Empowerment Account" for their special needs child and withdraw the child from public school.

2)  Arizona diverts 90% of the state money it would have given to the school district for the withdrawn child and deposits it into an "Empowerment Account" administered by the parent(s).

3)  The parent(s) is then free to use the money to send their child to any "non public" school they choose, including religious schools and homeschools.


SB 1553 reduces accountability for taxpayer money, creates taxpayer supported discrimination, and likely violates both the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 2 Section 12 of the Arizona Constitution.

SB 1553 is a Trojan horse and only the tip of the sword. This is an all out assault by extreme special interest groups who are intent on bringing down the public school system, with the end result that mostly religious schools are funded with taxpayer money.

Secular Coalition for Arizona supports better educational opportunities for children with disabilities, but SB 1553 doesn't provide that.