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Bill could expand program for private schools

PHOENIX -- Arizona legislators will vote on a bill that would expand a state program that allows students to pay for a private education using public funds.

Several education advocates who say the program is unconstitutional have sued the state. They also heavily criticized schools chief John Huppenthal last week for releasing automated calls promoting the program and private schools. Huppenthal defended the calls, which went out to 15,000 homes in poor-performing school districts in Phoenix and Tucson.

Legislators expanded the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Accounts last year to children from schools that have received a poor grade from the state and to those with active military parents. Now Republican bill sponsor David Livingston of Peoria wants to expand the program to children of public safety personnel such as police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians.

The House education committee will vote on the bill on Monday.

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