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Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 1st General Session
Volume 5, Issue 4 • Week of January 30, 2023

Legislature Leans Into School Culture Wars over Actual Governing

With only one month until Arizona’s thousands of public schools are thrust into crisis, Republicans are finally seeing fit to plod forward with the urgent work of lifting the school spending cap (AEL). On Tuesday, the House Education Committee will consider a bill advancing a one-year waiver, the absolute minimum required to keep schools open. Legislation to address the issue has been ready to go for weeks, and all that’s left are procedural votes.

Even Supt. Horne is pushing for action: he told a budgetary subcommittee last week that failure to act would “be an incredible disaster.” Undaunted, Republican legislative leaders have said they’d rather wait, keeping school districts under threat — and some members of their caucus are even trying to hold Arizona’s kids hostage to create leverage for unspecified “systemic reforms,” which surely include more vouchers (because, of course they do).

The remainder of next week’s committee agendas — as well as introduced bills in general — are littered with nonsense. In House Education, Republican lawmakers will once again attempt to attack and censor teachers who discuss truthful history, in an apparent culture-war-driven attempt to combat nonexistent “CRT” in K-12 schools. It’s just one example of how backward their priorities are and how little they seem to care about the actual work voters elected them to do

Instead of prioritizing lifting the ruinous school spending cap (AEL), these lawmakers are focusing on expanding STO vouchers. (If this bill makes it to Gov. Hobbs’ desk, we urge her to veto it.) Instead of figuring out how to fill the massive crater they blew in our state budget with universal ESA expansion ($200 million to date, projected to be $376 million in 2024), they are wasting time trying to regulate pronouns and drag queens. And with Arizona’s finances estimated to be underwater by FY 2025, they’re trying to further slash the revenues that fund our public schools by proposing literally billions of dollars in tax cuts (see our subsection below).

If you find this deeply frustrating, you’re not alone. As journalist Jim Small has commented, “Republicans are terrified that their nearly 60-year stranglehold on power in the legislature is coming to an end, and they’re desperately trying to maintain control.” It’s more important than ever that they hear from you.

Email your lawmakers TODAY: use our one-click email tool to tell them to prioritize public education and roll back universal ESA voucher expansion before it bankrupts our state. Emailing only takes 2 minutes!

Budget Updates

As week 4 begins at the state Capitol, Republican House and Senate leadership say they plan to introduce bills for another “continuation budget” this week. This would maintain government at last year’s baseline levels, with only mandatory adjustments for inflation. This unprecedented move is intended to try to circumvent any leverage Gov. Hobbs has to negotiate with legislative Republicans on her own priorities, other than a simple veto. The status quo has Arizona schools funded at 47th in the nation; we reject the status quo and want more for Arizona’s students. 

Many question whether such a budget can pass. Democrats have dismissed the plan, saying it “lacks any true vision for the financial future of our state.” This means every Republican would need to be on board — but the caucus is divided. Stay tuned!


Use Request to Speak on these bills before Tuesday at 1 PM:


NO on SCR1015


NO on HB2458


YES on HCR2001


YES on SB1266

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Want a refresher? Our friends at Civic Engagement Beyond Voting are hosting RTS trainings every Monday at 6:30 PM through March 6.

Your voice matters. A simple phone call or email to your lawmaker asking them to prioritize funding for schools and responsible policies for education goes a long way. Find your legislative district here. Email and phone information for your representatives is here and your senator is here. Make your voice heard!

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Bills in Request to Speak


HB2458, sponsored by Beverly Pingerelli (R-28), is an “anti-CRT” bill fueled by anti-public school culture wars. This would ban teaching “controversial topics” in schools and drive further distrust of educators. Teachers could be disciplined up to losing their teaching certificate, and school districts would face penalties of up to $5,000. Students need to know both the good and bad of our history so they can learn from the mistakes of our past. We should support critical thinking which teaches kids to interpret and analyze ideas on their own, not censor classroom conversations. This bill is identical to last year’s HB2112, which did not pass. Scheduled for House Education Committee, Tuesday. OPPOSE.


SCR1015, sponsored by JD Mesnard (R-13), would ask voters to restrict Arizona’s initiative and referendum process by requiring ballot measures to collect signatures from a percentage of voters in each of Arizona’s 30 legislative districts: 10% for initiatives and 15% for a constitutional amendment. This anti-democracy measure would effectively give any single district veto powers over the rest, and would almost certainly end citizen initiatives in Arizona. Nearly identical measures have been proposed in at least four other sessions, including last year, but have never passed. Assigned to Senate Government Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE.


HCR2001, sponsored by David Cook (R-7), would waive Arizona’s archaic school spending cap for one year, averting teacher layoffs, program cuts and school closures. Without this waiver, the public district schools which serve 70% of the state’s school children will be legally unable to spend $1.4 billion in funds the Legislature has already allocated to them, and would have to cut spending for this school year by nearly 20% across the board. The bill will require a two-thirds supermajority vote before March 1 (40 in the House, 20 in the Senate). Scheduled for House Education Committee, Tuesday. SUPPORT.


SB1266, sponsored by Christine Marsh (D-4), would require schools that accept ESA voucher funding to run fingerprint clearance checks on their staff, similar to what already happens in public schools. A positive step that would keep Arizona kids who use ESA vouchers safer. Scheduled for Senate Education Committee, Thursday. SUPPORT.

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Arizona charter school Great Hearts, well known for serving affluent suburban families and often under fire for discrimination, plans to open a network of private Christian academies. The new Great Hearts Christos, which plans to operate almost entirely with ESA funds, is expected to open three church-based schools in metro Phoenix this August. 

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The curriculum and environment is tailor-made to enable state-funded discrimination against LGBTQ+ youth and students with special needs. Teachers will be expected to uphold “traditional Christian morality, and special education students will be admitted on a “case-by-case basis” if they are the “right fit,” with no plans to honor an IEP or 504.

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The school’s website lists some deeply problematic financial aid resources, including Love Your School, a pro-voucher organization funded by Cathi Herrod’s Center for Arizona Policy as a “Red for Ed movement antidote,” and EdChoice, a pro-voucher lobbying organization founded by Milton Friedman, who promoted vouchers as a way to enable white flight from public schools.

Addressing the AEL

If not lifted by March 31, Arizona’s outdated school spending cap (AEL) will force the public district schools which serve 70% of the state’s school children to be legally unable to spend $1.4 billion in funds the Legislature has already allocated to them. District schools would have to cut spending for this school year by nearly 20% across the board, potentially leading to school closures and furloughing teachers and/or staff.

We’re following all AEL bills and will update you on their progress here weekly. See our January 23 report for a full rundown of all AEL bills introduced. 

One-Year Waivers

Requires a 2/3 vote on or before March 1, 2023 to lift the cap for this school year only.

⭐HCR2001 – David Cook (R-7) — scheduled for House Education Committee, 1/31

Senate Education Committee chair Ken Bennett (R-1) has introduced a mirror version of Cook’s bill, SCR1009. We look forward to this bill appearing on an agenda as soon as possible, hopefully next week.

Want to know more? Our friends at the Arizona Agenda have an in-depth explainer on the AEL with lots of historical context. 

Tax Cuts: Arizona's Revenue Problem

Since the 1990s, politicians have shrunk Arizona’s tax base by growing tax credits and carve-outs. These now cost Arizona $24.5 billion per year and growing — far more than ever enters our general fund. This is the root reason why Arizona K-12 schools rank 47th in the nation for per-pupil spending: we simply don’t have the funds because we are giving them away.

Our teetering  tax structure relies heavily on volatile sales taxes and extremely low income taxes. Arizona is  one of just 11 states with a corporate income tax rate below 5%. Republican lawmakers have also slashed personal income taxes to 2.5%, heavily benefiting high-income earners. This leaves experts concerned that Arizona won’t have enough revenue to sustain critical services (like public schools) once pandemic relief money runs out and the inevitable next recession arrives. 

As if that weren’t bad enough, experts are projecting our state is already tipping into the red. A recent report from the nonpartisan Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) projects Arizona will be underwater by FY 2025. The lowlights include $2 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy; an unbudgeted $200 million for the universal ESA expansion, projected to  grow to nearly $400 million in 2024; an upcoming fiscal cliff of $300 million for soon-to-expire Prop 301; and naturally slowing economic growth. 

Further tax cuts will only compound the crisis, but Republicans have proposed to slash state revenues even further. The fiscal impact of these bills so far is a staggering $872 million to the state. Because half of the general fund goes to public schools, that would mean a $450 million cut to public education. More than half of proposed bills still lack any fiscal analysis, so that number will only balloon in days and weeks to come. 

In order to provide all Arizona’s children with the fully funded public schools they deserve, lawmakers must first stop poking holes in our state’s bottom line. It’s time for a full overhaul of our tax laws and a restructure that prioritizes stable revenue streams that fund Arizona’s future, not tax carve-outs for special interests. 

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