Stacked Transparent SOSAZ Logo

Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 1st General Session
Volume 5, Issue 34 • Week of August 28, 2023

Click here to jump to a section!

Hobbs Heats Up Voucher Debate

This week, Gov. Hobbs turned up the heat on universal ESA vouchers, making it clear that leaders of the Republican-controlled legislature will need to work with her to rein in the costly, off-the-rails, unsustainable program. 

Hobbs pointed out several catastrophic problems with universal ESA voucher expansion:

  • The growth of the “unaccountable, unsustainable voucher program” has “far outpaced the original projections.”
  • The “out-of-control program” is going to “bust the budget… And whether or not you support public tax dollars going to pay for private school, this is not something that’s just going to affect dollars going to public education. It is going to affect all other areas of the [state] budget.”
  • “Republicans in the budget process were not willing to have [voucher reform] on the table at all. It is more and more clear that their projections are just completely inaccurate and that they’re going to have to face the reality of the situation we’re in. We’re going to have to compromise.” 
  • “[Republican leadership has] continued to say, mistakenly, that this is a program that actually saves tax dollars. That’s not the case. And we have a lot more solid numbers coming from every independent financial analyst that has looked at this program, pretty much in agreement that it’s growing unsustainably… if they continue to say, ‘no, this is saving money,’ they’re just wrong, and there’s more and more evidence to prove that.”

Hobbs is right, of course. But what does “reining in” and “compromise” really look like with this legislature? According to Gov. Hobbs, it “might look like putting a cap on the number of vouchers. It might look like putting an income cap. But we have to find a solution to rein in this unsustainable program.”

For our part, we know that two things need to happen in order to stop this program from dismantling Arizona’s public schools and from hurting children:

  • One, legislators must roll back the program and prioritize public education funding, and 
  • Two, major child safety and protection safeguards must be put in place to ensure that bad actors don’t hurt children or abscond with our taxpayer dollars. 

Upcoming Events!

Are you ready to learn more and harness your power to be a parent advocate? Join us for any one of these dates to hear our BRAND NEW, short, engaging presentation for parents about how schools are funded, why PTOs and PTAs have to do so much fundraising, and what we can do about it! Sign up HERE:

Voter Registration Training – Wednesday, August 30 at 4 pm – Register HERE!

Yuma Rural Action Summit – November 4 – Mark “Going” HERE!

Celebration of Arizona’s Public Schools

Fundraiser at the Arizona Science Center

Saturday, September 23, 5:30pm

Get your tickets HERE

Voucher Watch

Check out our new video for the truth about how much universal ESA vouchers will cost Arizona, and how vouchers defund public education:

Around the Horne

Breaking news: Superintendent Horne’s Department of Education (ADE) is spending $10 million in taxpayer dollars on TV ads pushing ESA vouchers. Instead of fulfilling his duty to serve Arizona’s 1.1 million public school students or helping special needs ESA voucher families navigate the chaotic rollout of universal vouchers, Supt. Horne is desperately trying to justify the failing program. The newly reported $10 million in spending is on top of a previous $600,000 the department siphoned from ESA voucher administration dollars to spend on advertising.

It doesn’t add up: If universal vouchers are as successful as Horne claims, why are the ADE and dark money groups like the American Federation for Children and Love Your School funneling millions into predatory voucher marketing? The truth is, they know the program is mostly benefiting those who’d already chosen private school and homeschool — NOT the 92% of Arizona families who continue to choose their local public schools. According to the latest report from the ADE, 3 out of every 4 universal voucher recipients were already homeschooled or attending private school before accepting an ESA voucher. Now, Horne is specifically marketing to low-income and Spanish-speaking communities in a desperate attempt to increase the ratio of students applying from public schools. 

What could $10 million do for public schools? Public schools are fundraising for basic classroom supplies and teachers are paying out of their own pockets to buy crayons and tissues for their classrooms. It is evident where the priorities of the Superintendent of Public Instruction lie — with for-profit private education options. 

To combat this misguided marketing, we must be LOUD and PROUD in our support for public schools. We know why public schools are great – let’s make sure that all our friends, family, and community members do as well! Every conversation matters.

K-12 Roundup

Arizona lawmakers’ refusal to fully fund our public education system has left our kids $4.5 billion behind the national per-pupil funding average. This funding disparity has a clear impact: unlike other states, Arizona does not fund full-day kindergarten or adequately fund teacher or staff salaries. Instead, we have the most crowded classrooms and the worst teacher turnover rate in the nation. The failure of our state government to fund our public schools leaves local communities struggling to fund an inequitable, unpredictable, and unstable system that fails to give kids the robust education they deserve. 

Here are a few ways local communities are forced to attempt to fill that gap: 

Bonds & Overrides: Bonds and overrides are voter-approved initiatives that generate additional property tax revenue to fund projects and operations for local school districts beyond what the state provides. Unfortunately, not all districts in Arizona are successful in passing these local measures. Although most metro Phoenix districts have been successful in passing bonds and overrides, exurban and rural communities have not. Of the last six attempts to pass a bond or override in Cave Creek Unified School District, for example, only one has been successful. This has a tangible impact: Cave Creek’s average teacher salary is anywhere from $5,000 to $9,000 lower than the surrounding districts that consistently pass bonds and overrides. Many bonds and overrides will be on the November 2023 ballot (check your mail after October 11). We encourage you to vote YES on every measure to support local students and educators!

Inequitable Parent Fundraising: Parent groups used to fundraise for “extras” like field trips and enrichment, but the substantial decrease in Arizona’s state funding for public education has forced schools to rely on parent group funding for necessities, like instructional staff, academic programs, and other services that districts can no longer afford. While wealthy school districts may still be able to scrape by, the abdication of this responsibility has left school districts in lower-income and rural areas far behind. More than 70% of the nation’s wealthiest parent groups serve schools where less than 10% of students come from low-income families. Parents in lower-income areas of Arizona often do not have disposable income to donate to schools, or the time or means to participate in large-scale donation drives. In the face of severe budget cuts, these schools must somehow manage with less – and kids pay the price. 

Teacher Crowdsourcing: Imagine a surgeon needing to buy their own scalpels or be left to use dull, 10-year-old scalpels her hospital can’t afford to replace. Sound ridiculous? Something similar happens every single day in Arizona schools. The state does not provide enough funding for necessary supplies, forcing teachers to shoulder the cost and further reduce their already disproportionately low salaries. While a teacher from a well-off household might be able to afford to spend thousands of dollars per year on materials for students, most must rely on Amazon Wishlists and the kindness of strangers. This is unfair to teachers and students alike. A teacher’s ability to spend out-of-pocket shouldn’t affect the quality of their classroom or the tools students have available to them. And regardless, teachers should never have to spend their own salaries on essential items that can and should be funded by the state.

The quality of a student’s education should not depend on their zip code, the income level of their community, or their teacher’s ability to use their own money on their classroom. Unfortunately, the Republican majority in the Arizona legislature has for decades walked away from their responsibility to fully fund public education, focusing instead on propping up private school vouchers. Our state is projected to spend almost $1 billion on these vouchers in the next school year alone. Allocated properly, that money could be used for $300,000 in additional funding for every school in the state. Better is possible: we just need lawmakers with the courage to fulfill their constitutional duty to adequately fund our local public schools.

Excerpted from a recent blog from Save Our Schools Arizona Network – read the full piece HERE

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.

Public School Proud!

Check out some incredible pictures and stories from across the state that make us #PublicSchoolProud!

Flagstaff Unified School District is honoring the winners of the Navajo Nation Johnson O'Malley Art Contest. Students were asked to submit paintings or drawings representing the 2023 theme: “Building the Future, Reigniting the Culture and Language.” Congratulations to prize winners Justine Sloan, Michelle Billy, Joseph Bitsuie, Harley Nez, and Tommy Nez. Way to go!

Students at Desert Sunrise High School in Maricopa are enjoying their school’s newest elective, AP Human Geography. This college-level class teaches basic mapping skills, applications of geography, and most importantly, new ways in which to view our communities and our world.

Congratulations to Christopher Hudson, 2023 graduate of Mesa’s Mountain View High School, for winning a full ride scholarship to Berklee College of Music in Brooklyn, New York. Christopher has been playing the piano and producing music since he was 3, and has even produced songs with famous musicians. It is no wonder he earned one of only nine available scholarships!

Know an incredible Arizona teacher, staff member or school leader? Nominate them for our Public Education Champions award today at bit.ly/CAPSaward. All nominations are due by Sept. 5! Awards will be given out at the Celebration of AZ’s Public Schools on Sept. 23 — don’t forget to buy your tickets @ bit.ly/SOSAZtix

Upcoming Events!

Parents 4 Public Schools (3)

Are you ready to learn more and harness your power to be a parent advocate? Join us for any one of these dates to hear our BRAND NEW, short, engaging presentation for parents about how schools are funded, why PTOs and PTAs have to do so much fundraising, and what we can do about it! Sign up HERE:

Screenshot 2023-08-26 at 8.41.22 AM

Voter Registration Training – Wednesday, August 30 at 4 pm – Register HERE!

RAS Yuma FB

Yuma Rural Action Summit – November 4 – Mark “Going” HERE!

unnamed-25

Celebration of Arizona’s Public Schools

Fundraiser at the Arizona Science Center

Saturday, September 23, 5:30pm

Get your tickets HERE!

Get Plugged In!

Have you signed the AZ Loves Public Schools Pledge yet? Be part of our growing community of public school supporters, sign the pledge and then share with your friends! Also check out our map of Arizona’s public school supporters and help us fill it in!

unnamed-86

Don’t forget to join us on social media. Pick your favorite(s) and join us for fun, engaging content!! This is where we post important updates, key news articles, and informative graphics and videos you can’t get anywhere else.

Get Plugged In!

unnamed-86

Have you signed the AZ Loves Public Schools Pledge yet? Be part of our growing community of public school supporters, sign the pledge and then share with your friends! Also check out our map of Arizona’s public school supporters and help us fill it in!

Don’t forget to join us on social media. Pick your favorite(s) and join us for fun, engaging content!! This is where we post important updates, key news articles, and informative graphics and videos you can’t get anywhere else.

Get Your SOSAZ Merch

AZ Loves Public Schools Car Magnets & Yard Signs!

Be the first to order HERE!

Note: Yard signs are currently available only in Maricopa, Pima, and Yavapai Counties where our field team can personally deliver.  Check back for more counties soon!

Order AZ Loves Public Schools Tees, Tanks & Sweatshirts on AMAZON!

Be the first to order HERE!

Don’t forget your red #PublicSchoolProud shirt – order HERE. While we get ready to change suppliers, we’re offering 2 shirts for your donation of $30, or one for an $18 donation. Wear Public School Proud gear to show your dedication to well-funded public education in Arizona!

Join Team SOSAZ!

Sign up for a Community Action Team: East Valley, West Valley & North Phoenix, Scottsdale & Paradise Valley, Central & South Phoenix, Northern Arizona, and Southern Arizona! Your local coordinators will help you with using Request to Speak and contacting your lawmakers.

Request an SOSAZ Education Roadshow presentation HERE

Sign up to automatically receive the SOSAZ Legislative Weekly Report HERE

©2023 by Save Our Schools Arizona® All Rights Reserved. Not for use in whole or in part without permission.