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Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 1st General Session
Volume 5, Issue 15 • Week of April 17, 2023

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Vetoes, Vouchers & Vacations

Vetoes, Vouchers & Vacations

This legislative session has been characterized by chaos and dysfunction, but we may avoid all damage to public schools (thanks to Gov. Hobbs’ well-inked veto stamp!) and make some significant progress on prioritizing and funding public education in the budget. Call us crazy, but we remain optimistic. 

​​Any forward progress? Other than the one-year AEL school spending cap waiver HCR2001 (without which Arizona’s public district schools would already be shut down), there just hasn’t been any real progress yet. We wish we had more positive news to report, but with a legislative majority that’s been mostly focused on attacking, not supporting, our public schools, educators and students, this is all we’ve got. 

Veto summary: Hobbs has now signed 53 bills and vetoed 48. Among her vetoes: so-called “anti-CRT” teacher gag bill SB1305 and “rampant lawsuits against teachers” bill SB1005. We expect more vetoes to come, including “parents carrying guns in schools” bill SB1331, “school choice” marketing scam HB2539, and irresponsible tax-cut bill SB1260

Last week’s expulsion of conspiracy theorist Liz Harris (R-13) led both the House and Senate to declare a recess; they’ll be back on Tuesday, April 25. Raquel Teran (D-26) also took the opportunity to resign to focus on her run for Congress. Over the next week and a half, which some are dubbing “spring break for lawmakers,” legislative leaders and the governor will likely redouble their efforts at budget negotiations, which so far have been happening only behind closed doors. Gov. Hobbs, House Speaker Toma and Senate President Petersen say they are meeting regularly, telling press they’re “optimistic” they’ll reach “bipartisan” agreement.

Stop Monkeying aroundWhile we encourage bipartisanship to represent our politically diverse state, we know that this term can be a cover for forced negotiation that leaves the most vulnerable (including our public school students) far behind. Lawmakers must work within the dismal economic landscape Arizona faces: a surplus that will be completely gone by next year, massive tax cuts that leave us in the red, and hundreds of millions of dollars in unbudgeted costs for a universal ESA voucher program that’s rapidly spiraling out of control. If this session’s budget checks the bipartisanship box but ends with no significant progress on tackling these issues, that’s no budget at all. 

It’s important for Arizona to know how our tax dollars are being spent, whether our students are learning, and whether our children are safe. This means adding desperately needed accountability to the ESA voucher program. But accountability on its own is not enough. Lawmakers must roll back this wildly irresponsible program before it bankrupts our state. 

Actions You Can Take

🌟 Demand accountability TODAY with a one-click email at bit.ly/ESAfix.

🌟 Demand a rollback of universal ESA vouchers TODAY with a one-click email at http://bit.ly/RollBackVouchers

🌟 Contact Republican legislative leadership and ask them to prioritize these in the budget:
Senate Majority Leader Warren Petersen (R-14) wpetersen@azleg.gov / 602-926-4136
House Majority Leader Ben Toma (R-27) btoma@azleg.gov /  602-926-3298

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Voucher Watch

As Arizona’s universal ESA voucher expansion continues to strip hundreds of millions of dollars from our public schools, the Arizona legislature has a new demand: they think private school students should be able to play sports at public schools. Senate Bill 1564, backed by the extremist Center for Arizona Policy, would force public schools to allow private school students to try out for any sports team. If this law is passed, private school students could take spots on a team that would have gone to local students who chose their local neighborhood schools. Worse, this extremely slippery slope entirely blurs the lines between public and private education, with significant future implications.

The sports facilities at neighborhood public schools are financed by our state taxpayer dollars – money that ESA voucher parents are taking as a subsidy to pay for elite private or religious schools. Private schools can and do run their own sports programs; if parents aren’t satisfied by the extracurricular options at their child’s private school, they always have the option to choose to attend their local public school. 

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. In order for Arizona to move forward and thrive, these critical discussions need to take place. Find your legislative district here. Email and phone information for your representatives is here and your senator is here.

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Bills We're Tracking

Any of the bills marked “ready for floor” could be brought up for a vote with less than one day’s notice. Bills that are “ready for rules” must go through caucus meetings, which usually happen once weekly, before they can be brought to a vote.

We encourage you to scan this section and contact your senator or representatives directly, as applicable, on bills you care about. 

Key: ⚠️= veto-proof bill, 📥= on Gov. Hobbs’ desk, 🗑️ = vetoed

Ballot Referrals:

    • ⚠️SCR1015, Mesnard (R-13), would ask voters to require 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. Awaits House Rules Committee, then the floor (and the ballot). OPPOSE.
  • ⚠️SCR1024, Wadsack (R-17), asks voters to enshrine racism in the state Constitution. This would negatively impact student learning, teacher retention and teacher recruitment. Awaits House Rules Committee, then the floor (and the ballot). OPPOSE.
  • ⚠️SCR1034, Mesnard (R-13), would ask voters to amend the state Constitution to automatically extend the previous year’s state budget if lawmakers don’t pass one in time. This would remove the only structural motivation lawmakers have to work together. SCR1034 awaits House Rules Committee, then the floor (and the ballot). See duplicate bill HCR2038, Livingston (R-28). OPPOSE.
  • ⚠️SCR1035, Mesnard (R-13), would mandate automatic 50% income tax cuts if Arizona has a surplus. These are permanent cuts to the state general fund – and desperately needed dollars that could be used to bring funding for K-12 schools out of the bottom 5 nationally. Awaits House Rules Committee, then the floor (and the ballot). OPPOSE.

Attacks on Teachers & Curriculum:

  • SB1001, Kavanagh (R-3), would ban teachers from using a student’s chosen pronouns without written parental permission. This manufactured, divisive culture-war bill further politicizes teachers and will deepen Arizona’s ongoing teacher retention crisis. Doesn’t apply to taxpayer-funded private schools taking ESA vouchers. Awaits a House floor vote. OPPOSE.
  • SB1040, Kavanagh (R-3), would ban trans kids from using the school bathrooms, changing facilities and “sleeping quarters” that align with their gender identities, further politicizing teachers. Doesn’t apply to taxpayer-funded private schools taking ESA vouchers. Awaits a House floor vote. OPPOSE.
  • SB1323, Hoffman (R-15), would make it a felony for any public school employee to violate last year’s ban on referring students to or using any so-called “sexually explicit” material, which includes commonly taught literature and even the Bible. Doesn’t apply to taxpayer-funded private schools taking ESA vouchers. Awaits a House floor vote. OPPOSE.
  • HB2523, Parker (R-10), would require every K-12 student to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily at district and charter schools. Doesn’t apply to taxpayer-funded private schools taking ESA vouchers. Passed the full House 2/21 on partisan lines, with Republicans in support. Awaits Senate Rules Committee. OPPOSE. 
  • HB2705, Biasiucci (R-30), would create a training pilot program for district and charter school teachers and staff that qualifies them to carry concealed in schools, and appropriate $10 million from the general fund to run it. Awaits Senate Rules Committee. OPPOSE.
  • HB2786, Heap (R-10), would require school boards to notify parents of recommended or funded “training opportunities” for staff. Part of the hunt for nonexistent “critical race theory” in schools. Doesn’t apply to taxpayer-funded private schools taking ESA vouchers. Awaits Senate Rules Committee. OPPOSE.

Voucher Expansions:

  • SB1243, Mesnard (R-13), would bolster profit for STO vouchers by rolling them into a single category and increasing the maximum contribution amount. Awaits House Rules Committee. OPPOSE. 
  • HB2014, Livingston (R-28), would more than triple over 3 years the amount Arizona spends on a specific type of STO voucher. Awaits Senate Rules Committee. OPPOSE.
  • HB2504, Parker (R-10), would expand STO vouchers to students in foster care. Public schools serve the vast majority of foster youth, who are already eligible for ESA vouchers. Awaits Senate Rules Committee. OPPOSE.

Attacks on Schools, School Boards, Districts:

  • 🗑️SB1005, sponsored by John Kavanagh (R-3), would ban parents from having to pay attorney fees or damages if they lose a lawsuit against a public school or teacher (but not an ESA-funded private school or teacher). Vetoed 4/11. OPPOSE. 
  • SB1026, Kavanagh (R-3), threatens school funding by banning “drag shows” for people under 18. Violators would lose state funds for 3 years. Broad enough to include school plays and pep rallies. Awaits a House floor vote. OPPOSE. 
  • SB1331, Shamp (R-29), would allow parents to carry guns on school property with a valid concealed weapons permit, violating federal law. Passed the full Senate 2/21 on partisan lines, with Republicans in support. Awaits a House floor vote. OPPOSE.
  • SB1410, Wadsack (R-17), would require public school boards (but not charter schools or ESA-funded voucher schools) to establish the equivalent of Supt. Horne’s “teacher snitch line” for parents to report purported violations of their rights. Awaits a House floor vote. OPPOSE.
  • SB1564, Kaiser (R-2), would allow private and ESA voucher students to try out for public school sports. Athletics should be something parents consider when choosing a school for their student. When parents opt out of local schools, they opt out of extracurriculars. Awaits a House floor vote. OPPOSE.
  • SB1596, Mesnard (R-13), would require school district offices to serve as polling places if elections officials ask for it, and require teachers to attend inservice training instead of volunteering at the polls. Awaits House Rules Committee. OPPOSE.
  • SB1599, Mesnard (R-13), would fine school districts that don’t post teacher salary information as already required by law up to $5,000 per day. Awaits a House floor vote; scheduled 3/20, but retained. OPPOSE. 
  • SB1694, Hoffman (R-15), would ban the state, including public schools, from requiring “diversity, equity, and inclusion programs” for its employees. Awaits House Rules Committee. OPPOSE.
  • SB1696, Hoffman (R-15), broadly doubles down on a ban on district and charter schools exposing minors to “sexually explicit materials.” Awaits House Rules Committee. OPPOSE.
  • HB2539, Pingerelli (R-28), would force the State Board of Education to implement a “public awareness program” to prop up school choice in Arizona, including free, mandatory publicity for taxpayer-funded ESA vouchers. Awaits a Senate floor vote. OPPOSE.

Resources & Accountability:

    • SB1182, Bennett (R-1), would give private, for-profit universities a share of the $20 million in tax dollars that helps fund teacher training programs, decreasing funding meant for Arizona’s three public universities. This is not only privatization, but poor value for tax money. Awaits House Rules Committee. OPPOSE.
    • SB1281, Shamp (R-29), gives state income tax rebates of $200 individual, $400 joint, to anyone who filed a return in 2022. This would drain $936 million from the state General Fund, which would mean massive cuts to K-12 education. Awaits House Rules Committee. OPPOSE.
  • SB1255, Kern (R-27), would restrict Arizona agency rulemaking and substitute the legislative process instead. This would kneecap the state’s ability to regulate unaccountable, wasteful spending, such as with universal ESA vouchers. Awaits House Rules Committee. OPPOSE.
  • SB1559, Kaiser (R-2), is a state tax cut for corporations. This would drain money from the state General Fund, spelling cuts to K-12 education. Awaits House Rules Committee. OPPOSE.
  • SB1577, Mesnard (R-13), would mandate automatic 50% income tax cuts if Arizona has a surplus. These are permanent cuts to the state general fund – and desperately needed dollars that could be used to bring funding for K-12 schools out of the bottom 5 nationally. Awaits House Rules Committee, then the floor. OPPOSE.
  • HB2003, Livingston (R-28), would slash corporate income taxes nearly in half by 2025. Arizona’s tax giveaways already far outpace the entire state budget. Awaits Senate Rules Committee. OPPOSE.
  • HB2291, Cook (R-7), would continue the Arizona Schools for the Deaf & Blind for another 5 years. The school, which has educated students with auditory and visual issues since Arizona’s statehood in 1912, would have to close by July 1 if the bill does not pass. Awaits a Senate floor vote. SUPPORT.
  • HB2538, Pingerelli (R-28), would allow live, remote instruction for grades 9-12, with bonuses for passing grades. This would monetize learning, leading to cherry-picking of students and other forms of inequity. Awaits Senate Rules Committee. OPPOSE.

Frustrated by what you see here? Use our one-click email tool to tell lawmakers you want Arizona to focus on real education needs, not bloated boondoggles: bit.ly/prioritizepubliced

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