Horne torn on acting on school
Aug 13, 2008
Republic, The (Phoenix, AZ)
- August 13, 2008
Pitzl, The Arizona Republic
lawmakers are trying to salvage a voucher program that was cut from the state
budget and hope to persuade state school Superintendent Tom
Horne to cover the
costs from his own budget.
says he can't make the move on his own and is awaiting a decision from a state
agency and, if needed, the state attorney general.
It adds up, at a minimum, to a delay in any attempt to restore a program that
provided state dollars to cover the private-school tuition bills of disabled
children as well as those in foster families.
It also lead to a legal tangle over who has the authority to appropriate state
dollars, and it could prolong the debate over private-school vouchers.
Meanwhile, families who benefited from the program last school year are taking
different approaches as a new school year begins. Some are keeping their
children in the private schools but footing the tuition bill themselves. Others
have turned to their public schools.
At issue is a $5 million program that was cut from the state budget during
negotiations in June as lawmakers and Gov. Janet Napolitano looked for ways to
close a $2 billion budget deficit.
House Speaker Jim Weiers, R-Phoenix, has been looking for ways to restore the
program. His attempt to use surplus money in his office's budget was rejected as
illegal; he and his staff now believe a state law gives
Horne , as head of
the state Department of Education, the ability to take surplus money from the
state's school-spending account and put it into the voucher program.
But Horne ,
citing another state law, said he first needs approval from the state Department
of Administration, which reports to Napolitano, to transfer the money. If the
agency refuses, he will ask Attorney General Terry Goddard if he has the legal
standing to make the transfer.
Republican lawmakers peppered him with questions, pressing their point that they
can act on his own, as long as he gets a favorable referral from the legislative
That approval came Tuesday, on a party-line 8-3 vote. Now
Horne has to get
state approval, a request he made on Tuesday.
that while he supports the voucher program and will work to get quick approvals,
he does not believe he can proceed on his own.
Myra Zwagerman is the parent of an autistic child who benefitted from the
scholarship program last year. Although she couldn't get a voucher this year,
her son, Lee, is continuing at Valley Christian High School in Chandler because
she's been so impressed with his improvement at the smaller private school
compared with the Tempe public schools.
She said the family has cut back on some of the services that Lee, a sophomore,
receives, reducing his tuition bill.
"We're kind of in a sweat-equity thing," she said, adding that her family is
working at the school to offset the tuition cost.
Section: VALLEY & State
Record Number: pho108894305