Action Alert

Ensure Equality in Education TODAY!

Equal, accesible education for all Arizona's students is essential for the future of our state--and for the future of reason. But two bills being heard in committee TODAY (February 6) will jeopardize access to quality education for many children in Arizona. Please take action immediately to let our legislators know that the nontheistic community will not tolerate discrimination in education!

Bill Descriptions

SB 1047, "Tax Credit; School Tuition Organizations," expands Arizona's current tax credit program for private schools. Tax payers are able to make donations to Student Tuition Organizations (which offer scholarships to students who attend private schools) and take a tax credit equal to the amount donated. SB 1047 doubles the credit.

Many of the Student Tuition Organizations eligible for this program are exclusively religious (such as those run by the Phoenix and Tucson dioceses as well as the Arizona Christian Tuition Organization); such STOs give scholarship money exclusively to families who wish to attend specific religious schools. Further, there are no protections under SB 1047 that ensure schools receiving money diverted from the public trust to private STOs do not discriminate against students on the basis ofreligion, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity. What this means is that less money is available for public education--and money available for private education is inaccessible to many of Arizona's children including religious minorities, nonbelievers, and LGBT youth.

HB 2626, "Empowerment Scholarship expands Arizona's Empowerment Accounts program. This program currently allows students with disabilities to receive 90% of the state funds that would otherwise be allocated for that student's education to be applied to private school education or homeschooling. As with SB 1047, there are no provisions in this bill to ensure that the schools receiving money under this program refrain from discriminating against religious minorities, nonbelievers, LGBT students and other marginalized youth. 

Additionally, because the vast majority of private schools in Arizona are religious, this bill creates direct public funding of private religious schools. The Arizona State Constitution is very clear on this issue: "No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise, or instruction, or to the support of any religious establishment." (Article II Section 12).

Who should I contact?

All members of the House Committee on Ways and Means, whether they are your Representative or not. See below for contact information.

If you are registered in the ALIS system, please log in and show your opposition. If you are interested in registering on ALIS (which allows you to submit comments on public record to House and Senate committees, please call or email Secular Coalition for Arizona's Executive Director Seráh Blain: 602-363-8018; serah@secularAZ.org. You are also encouraged to call or email with any questions or concerns.

When do I need to contact my legislators by?

Immediately.

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 Monday, February 6, 2012 @ 2:00 pm.

House Committee on Ways and 

Chairman: Rep. Jack Harper, jharper@azleg.gov, 602-926-4178

Vice-Chairman: Rep. Ted Vogt, tvogt@azleg.gov, 602-3235

Rep. Tom Chabin, tchabin@azleg.gov, 602-926-5160

Rep. Steve Farley, sfarley@azleg.gov, 602-926-3022

Rep. Ruben Gallego, rgallego@azleg.gov, 602-926-3042

Rep. Rick Gray, rgray@azleg.gov, 602-926-5993

Rep. Debbie Lesko, dlesko@azleg.gov, 602-926-5413

Rep. JD Mesnard, jmesnard@azleg.gov, 602-926-4481

Rep. Justin Olson, jolson@azleg.gov, 602-926-5288

Talking Points

  • SB 1047 and HB 2626 permit the state to divert public tax dollars from the public trust and empowers private institutions receiving those funds to discriminate against religious minorities, nonbelievers, and other marginalized youth thereby limiting these students' access to quality education. 
  • A prosperous, productive, free future for our state requires that all of Arizona's students receive equal, comprehensive education regardless of religious belief, nonbelief, sexual orientation, or membership in any other minority demographic.
  • SB 1047 redirects public money from public schools to religious institutions, which may be a violation of both the state and federal Constitutions. Challenges to this tax credit program have lost in court due to standing, but not merit--so the constitutionality of the program has never been settled and is likely to be challenged again.
  • HB 2626 uses public money directly to fund religious education, which is clearly unconstitutional in regard to both the state and federal constitutions. Expensive lawsuits, costing taxpayer money, are sure to follow.