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A new Arizona middle school for “queer” children opening this summer will be funded by taxpayers.
The Queer Blended Learning Center, which will launch in downtown Phoenix in August, will be funded by Arizona’s education vouchers.
The school is a project of One•n•ten, an LGBT youth activist nonprofit, which will house the school at its Phoenix headquarters.
Students do not have to identify as LGBT to enroll.
One•n•ten says its mission is “to serve LGBTQ youth and young adults ages 11-24” and “enhance their lives by providing empowering social and service programs that promote self‐expression, self‐acceptance, leadership development, and healthy life choices.”
“We just had this population of sixth, seventh and eighth graders that could really benefit from a safe space to be able to really have exceptional education while also having education that pertains to their own identity,” Clayton Davenport, One•n•ten’s director of development and marketing, told The Arizona Republic.
One•n•ten’s CEO Nate Rhoton said the group started the school in response to what they called legislative and cultural “attacks” on LGBT youth.
The school will highlight LGBT subjects, although it will also teach traditional subjects like science, math, and reading.
Students will learn LGBT history every day using a curriculum from the New York City education department.
“Specifically, culturally responsive curriculum in Civics LGBTQ history, just making sure we’re telling stories from every perspective and point of view,” said Katrina Thurman, the President of Spark Community Schools, which is building the “queer” school’s curriculum.
The school will reportedly use single-stall restrooms rather than boys’ and girls’ restrooms.
Thurman emphasized that families will not pay out of pocket for tuition, thanks to the school vouchers.
“Our tuition is what that voucher amount is. It is available to any parent. It is not above that. There should be no out-of-pocket costs to the family,” Thurman said.
Arizona expanded its school voucher program last summer.
Former governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, signed a bill in July of last year allowing every Arizona student to get a taxpayer-funded Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) to pay for their education at a private school, about $6,500 per child for grades 1-12.
More than a million K-12 public school students are eligible for an ESA account under the expansion, up from 11,000 students previously.
The new school vouchers have been extremely popular. In the first two weeks after the online portal for new ESA applications opened, the state received around 6,800 new applications for school vouchers.
“Arizona is the leader in school choice and this school is one example of parents taking advantage of the Empowerment Scholarship Account program to provide the education they believe is best for their children,” Nick Doug, the Arizona Department of Education’s director of communications, told the Daily Caller regarding the new “queer” school.
Arizona’s new Democratic governor Katie Hobbs, who took office in January, has vetoed two bills relating to trans-identifying K-12 public school students.
One of the vetoed bills would have required teachers to obtain parental permission before agreeing to call a student a new name or pronoun. The other bill would have prohibited trans-identifying students from using the school bathroom and locker room of the opposite gender.
Similar queer “microschools” have been launched in Atlanta, and another is planned for Las Vegas.