Arizona lawmakers considering using taxpayer money to pay for out-of-state private schools

It’s important that the distinction be made, but this bill would allow children of the Navajo Nation to use this program.

Kate Brophy McGee, a Republican senator representing parts of north-central Phoenix, Arcadia and Paradise Valley who has opposed prior ESA expansion efforts, said she didn't view allowing ESA money to be spent at out-of-state private schools as an expansion of the program.

“It’s a clarification of that expansion because the Navajo Nation crosses four states. Some of their residents live in each of those four states, especially when you get up in the Four Corners area. … I saw it as a clarification, modification as a result of something that was caught through an audit.”

She said the Department of Education and families on the reservations “need clarifying legislation and we discussed that.”

She said it was unclear how many families were affected by the Department of Education's decision to stop funding schools outside Arizona and demand parents pay the money back.

“What I see is children being used as pawns for political purposes" by groups on both sides of the issue, Brophy McGee said. She said school choice advocates are saying "look at these poor children" while public school advocates like Save Our Schools are saying the voters have spoken on this.

"I really am torn by that because they really have spoken," she said. "But does that mean these kids, who were approved for an ESA, by virtue of being on the Navajo Nation, that their choice goes away? They become pawns for both sides, and that’s just wrong."