- Associated Press - Thursday, April 6, 2017

PHOENIX (AP) - The Latest on a proposal to expand Arizona’s school voucher program to make all 1.1 million public school students eligible (all times local):

11:16 p.m.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has signed a major school voucher expansion bill that will extend eligibility to all the state’s schoolchildren.

Ducey’s signature came after the House voted Thursday evening to enact the measure with just one vote to spare. No Democrats voted for the bill and four Republicans also were opposed.

The Senate also passed the measure Thursday by just one vote. One Republican joined all Democrats in opposition.

The bill Ducey signed caps total program enrollment at about 30,000 students in 2022. Changes to the original proposal also cut the cost of the program from $24 million to a $3.4 million savings.

Opponents say wealthy parents will now be able to use public money for private schools. Backers say it a smart school choice measure.

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6:30 p.m.

The Arizona House has joined the Senate is passing a major school voucher expansion bill.

Thursday evening’s 31-28 vote sends the bill to Gov. Doug Ducey for his expected signature.

The Arizona Senate voted 16-13 earlier in the day to approve the measure which allows all 1.1 million school students qualify for vouchers letting them use state funding for private schools. An amendment places a growth cap on the program that would allow at most 30,000 children after 2022.

The Senate debated the proposal for nearly three hours Thursday before the measure advanced to a vote. The House spent just as long on debate.

The negotiated changes also cut the cost of the program from an estimated $24 million to a $3.4 million general fund savings.

Spectators in the House gallery chanted “shame, shame” when the tally was announced.

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3:15 p.m.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey appears to be cheering on fellow Republicans as the House debates a massive expansion of the state’s private school voucher program.

The governor sent out a tweet as the House began debate Thursday afternoon embracing the state’s school choice history.

The governor wrote: “Arizona has been the nation’s leader in educational & parental choice for two decades. Let’s keep it going, & help all Arizona kids succeed!”

Ducey is a backer of school choice like the state’s voucher program. The Senate passed and the House began debating a plan to make vouchers available to all 1.1 million schoolchildren. The proposal caps enrollment in the program at about 30,000 students.

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2:40 p.m.

The Arizona Senate has voted to dramatically expand the state’s private school voucher program to allow all 1.1 million school students qualify for the program.

The Senate debated the proposal for nearly three hours Thursday before the measure advanced to a vote. It passed 16-13, with all but one Republican senator supporting the measure and all Democrats and Republican Sen. Kate Brophy McGee opposed. The House began debating the proposal as the Senate voted.

The proposal originally allowed all 1.1 million K-12 students in the state to qualify to get state money to attend private schools when it is fully phased-in in four years. An amendment proposed by Sen. Bob Worsley of Mesa places a growth cap on the program that would allow at most 30,000 children after 2022.

The negotiated changes also cut the cost of the program from an estimated $24 million to a $3.4 million general fund savings by that year.

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10:50 a.m.

The Arizona Senate has started debating a proposal to dramatically expand the state’s private school voucher program.

The proposal would allow all 1.1 million K-12 students in the state to qualify to get state money to attend private schools when it is fully phased-in in four years.

But an amendment proposed by Sen. Bob Worsley of Mesa places a growth cap on the program that would allow at most 30,000 children after 2022. The negotiated changes also cut the cost of the program from an estimated $24 million to a $3.4 million general fund savings by that year.

Worsley is a key Republican vote for the plan. Democrats are uniformly opposed to the plan.

The House has also set a Thursday debate on the proposal.

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10:30 a.m.

A Republican opponent of an original proposal to expand a school voucher program to all 1.1 million Arizona school students says he’s now backing the plan after negotiating major changes.

An amendment pushed by Sen. Bob Worsley of Mesa will extend the current growth cap on the program so that by 2022 not more than 30,000 students can get state cash to pay for private school tuition. The current cap is about 5,500 students, with increases each year until the cap goes away after 2019.

Other changes cut the estimated cost of the program from at least $24 million a year to a $3.4 million general fund savings by that year.

Worsley is a key Republican vote for the plan.

The Senate and House both plan to debate the voucher expansion Thursday.

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6:30 a.m.

A yearslong effort to expand school vouchers to all 1.1 million Arizona schoolchildren is coming to a head.

Republican House and Senate leaders have scheduled debates Thursday on the planned four-year phase-in.

The proposal from Republican Sen. Debbie Lesko has been stalled for nearly two months as opposition from a handful of GOP lawmakers and all Democrats left the measure short of votes.

Scheduling debate is often but not always a sign that backers believe they have secured the needed votes.

The Legislature’s independent budget office estimated in February the proposal could cost at least $24 million because more public school students are likely to take state cash for private schools.

A cap that expires after 2019 limits current voucher enrollment to about 5,500 students.

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