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PHOENIX -- The Arizona Senate has given initial approval to a bill that would expand the state's school voucher program and would increase the amount in public funds a student could receive to attend private school.

The Senate gave initial approval to House Bill 2139 on Tuesday. The bill would expand Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Accounts eligibility to siblings of students who are current or past recipients and to those who have not previously attended public school. Current rules require students to attend public school before being eligible.

The bill would also grant an additional $1,684 to $1,963 each for students enrolled in the program, depending on their grade level. The extra money is based on what students who attend charter schools receive, which is higher than for those who attend public schools.

The program began in 2011 for children with disabilities. Legislators expanded the program last year to include children from schools that have received a poor grade from the state and to those with active military parents.

The Senate must still cast a roll-call vote.

Associated Press,

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