A sweeping expansion of Arizona's school-choice program could cost the state general fund an estimated $46 million in its first four years, according to an independent fiscal analysis released Tuesday.
The report contradicts claims by supporters that the expansion would save taxpayers more than $4,000 per student.
The Joint Legislative Budget Committee issued the so-called fiscal note on SB 1431, which would let every parent in Arizona use state tax dollars to send their children to private or religious schools.
The legislation would result in the broadest expansion of school choice in Arizona since charter schools opened their doors two decades ago.
The bill would expand the use of existing Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, which currently give a limited number of families $5,200 a year for use in private, religious or home schooling, as well as other purposes.
The bill's sponsor, Republican State Sen. Debbie Lesko of Peoria, has claimed taxpayers would save $4,300 for every student who used an ESA.
But a 12 News analysis showed ESAs could cost the state general fund an additional $1,000 for every child who leaves a public school for a private or religious school.
The JLBC report projects that 80 percent of new ESA participants would come from public schools.
The report warns that the estimate is speculative and that costs could vary, depending on participation rates.
It also notes that school districts' tax rates could decline as as the number of students shrink.