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Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 1st General Session
Volume 5, Issue 31 • Week of August 7, 2023

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GOP Lawmakers Ignore the Voucher-Sized Elephant in the Room

GOP Lawmakers Ignore the Voucher-Sized Elephant in the RoomOn Monday, Republican leaders went home for the year, ending the longest legislative session in state history without even so much as a token attempt to address the state’s biggest K-12 crisis: a universal ESA voucher program that is spiraling out of control. 

❌ Despite severe warnings from AG Mayes around lack of oversight and child safety, Republican lawmakers  failed to create any semblance of controls or safety regulations.

❌Republicans also ignored both Supt. Horne’s and Gov. Hobbs’ warnings that this year’s budget will be blown out of the water and failed to budget for the $320 million shortfall predicted by both  Horne and Hobbs.. With the triple threat of costs ballooning to $950 million, a next-to-zero surplus, and drastically reduced revenue due to Ducey’s enacted “flat tax,” Republican legislative leaders are displaying a marked lack of fiscal common sense  by refusing to act. 

❌ Even though the ESA voucher administration is under scrutiny by the Department of Homeland Security, the legislature failed to add any child or parental protections or controls to ensure taxpayer dollars are used wisely. 

In short, Republican lawmakers made a colossal mess last session when they expanded ESA vouchers universally. Instead of acknowledging their mistakes  and developing solutions, they’ve acted like toddlers, shoving their fingers in their ears to drown out all reports of fraud, abuse and scandal. 

Arizona voters have had our fill of stalling and political posturing — and are demanding actual action. 

Instead, Republican legislators have instead spent the year tilting at windmills, pushing various divisive, manufactured culture-war bills they knew Hobbs would veto: attacks on vulnerable LGBTQ+ youth, attacks on teachers and teaching, attempts to ban books, and of course, attempts to expand vouchers even further. Read more in our K12 Legislative Recap here! 

GOP Lawmakers Ignore the Voucher-Sized Elephant in the RoomVeteran GOP strategist Chuck Coughlin characterized the 2023 session as mostly “a bunch of politicians screwing around and not getting a lot done.” And indeed, “not getting a lot done” was a central pillar of this year’s Republican agenda: GOP lawmakers point to a lack of action on Arizona’s extravagant, unaccountable universal ESA voucher program as one of their biggest “wins.” 

It’s abundantly clear that this program is a failed $1 billion experiment that comes at the expense of over 1 million Arizona kids and families who choose public schools. With universal ESA vouchers poised to blow a hole in next year’s budget, reining in the unaccountable program must be a top issue for the 2024 session. 

We predict ESA vouchers will be the deciding factor in electing a pro-public education legislature in 2024 — just as we predict lawmakers who fail to put controls on this budget-busting spending spree of taxpayer funds will pay the price at the ballot box. 

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.

Around the Horne

A shocking letter from Gov. Hobbs revealed that the Arizona Department of Homeland Security (AZDOHS) is investigating the ESA voucher program for a data breach that revealed personally identifiable information on voucher recipients and disability categories.

This investigation underscores the chaos and scandal that characterizes the AZ Dept. of Education’s management of the ESA voucher program. Originally, in a flippant response to the governor, Horne claimed that the “decision of [ESA Director] Christine Accurso and her assistant [to resign] … has absolutely nothing to do with any reported data breach.” However, new information casts  doubt on his words. 

On July 14, third-party vendor ClassWallet determined that “an ADE employee’s account was implicated in this matter.” The same day, Accurso emailed ADE leadership to inform them that “We will NOT be sending out any communications to the parents or the press release.” On July 24, AZDOHS met with the ADE to discuss their initial findings. Three hours later, when they met for a second time, AZDOHS was informed that “the involved ADE employee had resigned from their position, effective immediately.” This just happens to be the exact same day former ESA Director Christine Accurso resigned

Clearly, Superintendent Horne either lied or has no idea what is going on at the ADE, calling into question any shred of oversight he claims to have over $950 million in taxpayer dollars going to ESA vouchers. 

Upcoming Events!

Statewide Rural Action Summits - Mark Your Calendars!

Statewide Rural Action Summits – Mark Your Calendars!

Sierra Vista – August 26 – Register here!

Yuma – November 4 – Save the date!

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Welcome Team SOSAZ (1)

Welcome to Team SOSAZ!

with Policy Director, Melinda Iyer

Monday, August 7 at 6:30pm – Register here!

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Celebration of Arizona’s Public Schools

Fundraiser at the Arizona Science Center

Saturday, September 23, 5:30pm

Get your tickets HERE

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K-12 Roundup

The massive diversion of public dollars due to ESA vouchers has already had a tangible impact on school districts. This week, the Tucson Agenda posed an interesting question: “How much slack are local taxpayers picking up when it comes to funding education?” They report that five different Pima County school districts are running bonds and budget overrides for the 2023 election, totaling $550 million in potential funding. In each case, the districts are requesting that voters approve property tax increases. Bonds and overrides fund desperately needed services and goods for districts, including teacher pay, buses, air conditioning, technology, and student services. 

This is true for districts across the state, many of which will go out for bonds and overrides in November 2023 or 2024. And while this has been the case for many years, the urgency with which districts are facing shortages is steadily increasing under the universal ESA voucher budget crisis, creating massive uncertainty for district budgets. 

As the article cites, Arizona ranks last in the nation for state funding – 37% behind the national average of $15,500 a year. This forces local school districts to pick up the slack, running ballot initiatives they must hope their district will vote for. At the same time, the universal ESA voucher program is set to drain $950M from our state coffers this school year – funds that could be invested in public education but are instead being spent on taxpayer-funded coupons for the wealthy.

Public School Proud!

Amazing things happen in Arizona’s public schools every single day. Let’s take some time over the summer to highlight stories from our community schools that make us #PublicSchoolProud! 

Mesa Public Schools are celebrating their Material Distribution Center, “the unsung heroes behind every successful school day.” These dedicated employees ensure that teachers have what they need so they can focus on what really matters: teaching students!

Back to school continues! Students at Sunnyside Unified School District in Tucson welcomed back 14,500 students to over 20 schools. Like in districts around the state, smiling faces and big hugs flooded campuses.

Congratulations to Ellyce Begay, Jeremiah Walters, and Jaycelyn Tallsalt from Tuba City High School for their selection as Navajo Nation 2023 Chief Manuelito Scholars! The scholarship honors Chief Manuelito, Hastiin Ch’ilhaajiin, who encouraged the Navajo people to seek education and protect and preserve Navajo tradition and culture.

Upcoming Events!

Statewide Rural Action Summits - Mark Your Calendars!
RAS Yuma FB

Statewide Rural Action Summits – Mark Your Calendars!

Sierra Vista – August 26 – Register here!

Yuma – November 4 – Mark “Going” HERE!

Welcome Team SOSAZ (1)

Welcome to Team SOSAZ!

with Policy Director, Melinda Iyer

Monday, August 7 at 6:30pm – Register 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!

Make sure you’re signed up for our important text alerts. We won’t text you often, only when it’s really important! Click on bit.ly/JOINSOS or text JOINSOS to (520) 779-4568.

TEXT SOSAZ

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!

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