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Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 1st General Session
Volume 5, Issue 1 • Week of January 9, 2023

What to Expect This Legislative Session

It’s truly a new day in Arizona. For the first time in over 10 years, pro-public education advocates have an ally in the governor’s suite. This Monday, January 9, with the legislature’s opening day and Katie Hobbs’ first State of the State speech, the 2023 Arizona state legislative session will begin. 

Hobbs is inheriting a legislature that, despite having the same razor-thin partisan margins, now tilts further right than ever before. The MAGA right ousted anyone who didn’t parrot their extreme views in the August primaries. 

What does this mean for bills impacting K-12 schools, educators and students in 2023? The evaporation of the center-right, and the accompanying growth of what’s often called the “no caucus” (belligerent ideologues who’d rather complain than govern), likely spells even more infighting in Arizona’s Republican caucus. This, along with Gov. Hobbs’ veto pen, means less harm. But public education advocates still hold considerable concern about progress on critically needed policy improvements, including more equitable funding, teacher pay, full-day kindergarten, and rolling back the massive ESA voucher program that is siphoning hundreds of millions of dollars from public schools and driving our state to bankruptcy.

Fractures in the Republican caucus may provide opportunities for this legislature and governor to find shared priorities. We call on lawmakers of both parties to work in bipartisan fashion, which is what best represents our state, and craft policies that honor the wishes of fiercely independent Arizona. 

Save Our Schools Arizona is ready to keep you informed and involved. Your voice matters now more than ever! As always, if you have questions, reach out to We’re glad to help!

Upcoming Events!

Education Advocacy Mini Sessions – Mondays at 6:30pm –

1/16 Engaging with Lawmakers and the RTS System

1/23 Writing Letters to the Editor

1/30 School Board Meetings


Use Request to Speak on these bills before Wednesday at 8 AM:

NO on HB2003

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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.

As you can see, there is a sharp disconnect between our state lawmakers’ current priorities and the actions truly needed to move our state and our public schools forward and prepare all Arizona children for their future. 

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!

NO on HB2003

RTS 2023

Bills to Watch

Leadership can’t formally assign bills to committees until after the Legislature convenes on Monday. RTS is available on just one of these bills “pending first reading and committee assignment.” You can also use RTS 2.0 to give any of these bills a quick thumbs down


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 schoolchildren 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. SUPPORT.


SB1001, sponsored by John Kavanagh (R-3), would ban teachers from using a student’s chosen pronouns without written parental permission. Trans youth are twice as likely to consider suicide as their peers; affirming care, which may include using a person’s chosen pronouns, lowers suicide risk. The bill continues the recent Republican theme of pushing manufactured, divisive culture-war issues for political profit. Education advocates say the bill further politicizes teachers, which will deepen Arizona’s ongoing teacher retention crisis. We expect Hobbs to veto this if it makes it to her desk. OPPOSE.


HB2003, sponsored by David Livingston (R-28), would slash corporate income taxes nearly in half by 2025. Last year, Republican lawmakers slashed personal income taxes beginning this year, leaving experts concerned that Arizona won’t have enough revenue to sustain critical services once pandemic relief money runs out and the expected recession arrives. Arizona’s tax giveaways already far outpace the entire state budget, and our unbalanced tax structure relies heavily on volatile sales tax; we’re currently one of just 11 states with a corporate income tax rate below 5%. The question is whether Hobbs will abandon common sense and sign off. She told an Arizona Chamber of Commerce forum in September that she believes Arizona has a healthy tax structure. Scheduled for House Ways & Means Committee and House Appropriations Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE.


HB2014, sponsored by David Livingston (R-28), would quadruple over 3 years the amount Arizona spends on a specific type of STO (School Tuition Organization) voucher. STO vouchers, which topped $1 billion back in 2017, are paid for by dollar-for-dollar tax credits that siphon funds from the state coffers that fund public schools. Arizona capped STO voucher growth in 2019 due to bipartisan agreement that the exponential increases were harmful. While similar to a bill from 2 years ago, this bill also blurs the lines between ESA and STO voucher funding. Arizona’s ESA voucher program ballooned by 400% this year, with the vast majority of funding going to families who have never sent their children to public school. OPPOSE.


SCR1002, sponsored by Anthony Kern (R-27), would ask voters to restrict their own direct democracy powers by requiring a supermajority vote on constitutional amendments. Last year’s Prop 132, which instituted a requirement for a 60% supermajority vote on tax measures, started out as applying to all voter-initiated ballot measures — a high bar that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the country. The bill is motivated by majority lawmakers’ increasing frustration with measures they don’t like (voters’ frustration with lawmakers who don’t listen apparently doesn’t figure in) and their fear of losing control of the lawmaking process to Democrats. If both Republican-controlled chambers pass the measure, it will head to the ballot without Gov. Hobbs’ approval. OPPOSE.


Under universal vouchers, the ESA voucher program has expanded from 11,000 to 45,000 users — a 400% increase.


The JLBC projected universal eligibility would cost taxpayers $33 million in the first year, but that cost is up to $210 million (and counting) for the first quarter alone.


Roughly 75% of new applicants have never attended a public school. Each of these applicants represents a new cost to the state General Fund, half of which funds public education.


Supt. Horne has appointed Christine Accurso to oversee the ESA voucher program. Accurso worked with DeVos’s American Federation for Children and the Goldwater Institute to oppose last summer’s universal ESA voucher referendum.


Supt. Horne is already working to strip accountability relating to ESA vouchers from the ADE website.

What We Expect

A battle over massive budget cuts for schools. Once again, one of 2023’s biggest issues will be lifting the Aggregate Expenditure Limit, an antiquated spending cap that represents disaster for public schools. This year’s school funding has already been collected, but unless lawmakers waive the cap with a two-thirds supermajority by March 1, schools won’t be able to spend it — meaning immediate cuts of $1.4 billion (nearly 20%) across the board which could force teacher layoffs, program cuts, and even school closures. Lawmakers have waived the limit before without issue, but the issue seems to be turning into a politically fraught game of chicken; Arizona’s students pay the price. David Cook (R-7), who sits on the House Education Committee, has introduced a clean one-year waiver of the cap; the next step is for Speaker Toma (R-27) to assign HCR2001 to committee and for the bill to be heard. If all else fails, Gov. Hobbs has also signaled her intent to call a special session to call lawmakers’ bluff and force them to address the issue. We hope to see the Legislature refer a measure to voters so the cap can be removed for good.

A post-universal ESA voucher landscape. As always, greed is the core motivation behind the privatization lobby’s voucher grift. Their stated goal is to “strengthen and expand” the wasteful, unaccountable program in any way possible. This could look like increasing the dollar amount per voucher, broadening approved uses, expanding vouchers out of state, or anything else that helps move money out of the public sphere and into private pockets. It’s all part of the privatization cycle: discredit, disinvest, divert, and repeat. Meanwhile, Arizona’s newly-passed universal program (the largest in the nation) is siphoning hundreds of millions of dollars from local K-12 public schools. While the JLBC projected a $33 million expense for the first year, actual losses to universal funding exceed $210 million for the first quarter alone. The legislature must create a separate budget line item for this massive expense and appropriate funding to the ESA voucher program before it bankrupts our state like the alt-fuels fiasco of 2000.

A hostile SPI. One of the biggest changes for public education advocates is the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s office, where educator Kathy Hoffman lost to scandal-ridden career politician Tom Horne. His litany of intended attacks, from “taking over failing districts,” eliminating social-emotional learning and so-called “critical race theory,” and forcing police into schools, is truly alarming. However, because the Republican-controlled legislature spent Supt. Hoffman’s entire tenure systematically stripping power from the office, he’s assuming a post that doesn’t hold much actual power. SOSAZ is prepared to document every failure of his administration and plans to give no ground. 

Return of the school takeover attack. Last year’s 11th-hour, profit-driven approach would have punished schools based on standardized test scores. (Less than 2% of Arizona’s public schools get a failing grade; those that do are mostly in extremely low-income areas and on reservation lands, and need resources in order to succeed.) The lawmaker who pushed that bill, Michelle Udall, now works for the Horne administration as head of “school turnaround,” where she will doubtless attempt to double down on this failed, destructive strategy. Once again, we’re grateful that Gov. Hobbs has the final say on legislation. Attorney General Kris Mayes and the State Board of Education can also help rein in the worst of the Horne administration’s excesses. We urge lawmakers to reject this punitive attack and instead focus on directing resources to the low-income students who need it most. Increasing the opportunity weight created last year (its current value is just $86 per child) would be a good start. 

Culture war issues that go nowhere. The extremist majority in this Legislature will likely redouble its efforts at the manufactured outrage we saw in previous sessions — book bans, attacks on teachers and LGBTQ+ youth, curriculum micromanagement, and so forth. With a pro-student, pro-teacher governor who’s poised to veto any and all attacks of this nature, we intend to pay these bogus non-issues no attention whatsoever.

What We’d Like to See

Despite recent investments, Arizona public schools continue to rank in the bottom 5 nationally for funding. Our state desperately needs serious, focused policy solutions (unlike those listed above) in order to move forward and remain a competitive, thriving place for families and businesses alike. 

Reining in the voucher grift. We didn’t get here overnight, so we won’t be able to reverse the damage overnight, either. We can start by instituting financial accountability for ESA vouchers and creating a level academic and regulatory playing field between public and voucher schools, with curriculum transparency and standards, accreditation and certification requirements, and a mandate that voucher schools respect a child’s IDEA rights.

Teacher retention and recruitment. Arizona lacks substantive policy discussions on recruitment and retention of teachers and staff. Due to chronic underfunding and lack of support, Arizona teachers have been fleeing the profession (and the state) for years. Recent pandemic-related stressors and lawmakers’ politicization of our educators only exacerbates the problem. In addition, we must create pipelines to ensure that teachers and staff reflect and represent the diverse communities they serve. State policies and proper funding would have a significant, positive impact on these crises.

Increases in school funding. Ranking in the bottom 5 nationally for funding means Arizona faces a critical need for the basics: teacher pay and support, special education services, building maintenance, computers and broadband, classroom resources and supplies, and so much more. This is to say nothing of the resources that students in other states take for granted, such as extracurriculars, the arts, career and technical education, and more. The legislature needs to fulfill its constitutional obligation and invest in public schools. 

More equitable funding. Last year, lawmakers implemented an opportunity weight — a modest amount of extra funding to help give low-income students the resources they need to succeed at the schools their families already choose. This is a good start, since we already know low-income students need significantly more resources in order to succeed. However, this new $86/year weight doesn’t begin to approach the $400/year our governor and legislative Republicans have been disproportionately directing to students at wealthy schools since 2017. There’s so much work to be done to create a level playing field where all our students can thrive. Read our 8-part blog series “An Unlevel Playing Field: Teaching Students in Poverty” for more on the needs of our kids living with poverty and the ways our legislature is failing them.

Support for special services and special education. Another effect of decades of underfunding is a critical need for special education services, counseling and other mental health supports, and gifted programs. Arizona’s neurodivergent students have unique needs that legally must be met, and Arizona schools need more resources and ability to hire more aides to meet the diverse needs of all of their students. Despite recent federal investments, Arizona’s student-to-counselor ratio remains the highest in the nation, meaning single counselors serving thousands of students at multiple schools, and students in need of mental health support who are unable to receive timely services because schools cannot afford (or sometimes even find) a dedicated counselor with a workable caseload.

Get Involved!


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