With the leadership of Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, the Arizona Legislature passed a bill to make all public-school students in Arizona eligible to get state money to attend private and parochial schools.
The legislation was signed by Gov. Doug Ducey late Thursday.
But the plan, approved by the House and Senate hours earlier with no Democrat support and several Republicans in opposition, will not mean every child would be able to get one of these vouchers. The bill has a limit, though that could be removed by lawmakers in the future.
On paper, the legislation does make every one of the 1.1 million students in Arizona public schools eligible for vouchers. They would be worth about $4,400 a year for most students.
But to get the votes, supporters had to agree to a cap of about 30,000 vouchers by 2021, a cap that will remain in place unless and until lawmakers decide otherwise.
That is a far cry from the original bill introduced by Sen. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, the author of the current limited voucher program. She wanted to make universal vouchers available as soon as 2019.
That idea faltered as not just Democrats but some Republicans objected to questions ranging from philosophical issues of state aid to private schools to the fact that her legislation actually would have increased the cost to the state by $25 million a year by 2021.
Worsley crafted the final plan that got not just his vote but the bare minimum 16 senators and 31 representatives needed for final approval.
Part of that is that his plan actually will reduce the tax burden by $3.4 million by 2021 depending on how many students actually leave public schools. But the cap also was a selling point.
Vouchers were first approved in 2011 to help parents whose children with special needs could not get the services they need in public schools.