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Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 1st General Session
Volume 5, Issue 49• Week of December 18, 2023

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Arizona is a National Embarrassment — AGAIN

This week, the Education Law Center released its annual “Making the Grade” report, which analyzes and ranks public education funding across the states. 

ABC15 covered the report and once again, Arizona is listed nearly last in per-pupil funding and dead last in funding effort. Only Idaho funds their public schools worse, with Arizona ranking behind 49 states and the District of Columbia. Arizona’s per-pupil spending from state and local sources is only $10,670 — a full $5,461 behind the national average. This means that Arizona is $5.5 billion behind the national average every year, and Arizona students only receive 66% of the educational investment as compared to their national peers.

Money matters for education. By disinvesting Arizona students’ education, Arizona lawmakers are actively depriving them of critically needed resources, experiences, services, and materials that are available to their peers in neighboring states and across the US. Arizona students are denied small class sizes, trained educators, additional supports, up-to-date technology, and extracurriculars. The reality is clear: in order to receive a fully funded education, Arizona students would have to leave the state. Arizona’s 1 million students deserve so much better from our state leaders.  

Time and time again, Republican lawmakers insist they are funding Arizona’s public schools and point to false arguments around administrative bloat and misspending — ignoring the fact that there is no money for bloat, and there is no money to misspend. They pair these falsehoods with massive tax cuts for the wealthy and a budget-busting universal ESA voucher scheme, both of which are breaking Arizona’s budget, and both of which are robbing Arizona’s public schools along with other needed state services.

Make no mistake, this defunding is by design and part of the playbook to defund, discredit, and dismantle public schools across the country. Every single one of the 11 worst states in this ranking has had massive publicly funded voucher schemes forced through their state legislature. Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Mississippi, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Utah, Arizona, and Idaho have become the cautionary tale of what happens when  public schools are defunded to the bone — and the privatizers and profiteers descend (as they were always planning to do) to pick the bones clean. 

Year after year, Arizona voters tell us they want fully funded, well resourced public schools. They want to raise teacher pay and reduce class sizes. And they know that this means public education needs new funding. According to a new poll from Stand for Children Arizona, the vast majority of Arizona voters expressed a desire for more funding for public schools, with 73% agreeing more funding is needed and 55% agreeing there is a “great need.”

Arizona parents, educators, students and community members are tired of being a national embarrassment. We call upon the Republican legislative majority to prioritize funding public education — or we predict Arizona voters will replace them in November 2024. 

While Arizona is beginning to feel the impact of universal ESA vouchers, the rest of the country is watching our cautionary tale. Don’t forget to dig into our 45-page comprehensive report detailing the impacts of universal vouchers one year after implementation. Click here or on the image below:


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Voucher Watch

This week, Stand For Children released the results of a comprehensive statewide poll of likely Arizona voters and found increasing rejection of universal ESA vouchers because of their budget impacts and lack of accountability, transparency, and safety. 

A strong majority (60%) of voters oppose Arizona’s ESA voucher program, with only 30% in support (and only 18% in strong support). Those polled agree that the ESA voucher program is in need of reform, with 65% supporting policies that impose a “limit on how much money can be spent each year on the program, limit the program to students in need, and require more transparency, accountability and oversight for how schools spend the funds.”

Meanwhile, Superintendent Tom Horne, who runs the disastrous ESA voucher program, has seen his favorability drop 8 percentage points over the last 6 months. He now has a net unfavorability of -15%. Republicans in the state legislature fall at about the same level of disdain, with a net -16% unfavorability rating. 

73% of Arizona voters agree that there is a need for additional funds for public schools, with 55% stating that there is a “great need.” Only 10% of Arizona voters thought there was “no need.” On the same note, 66% of the Arizona voters polled agreed that the state legislature must stop giving out tax breaks to the wealthy rather than funding public education. These are large percentages that cross party lines. 

Our state leaders must wake up and do the job they were elected to do: support public education. Arizona’s widely unpopular ESA voucher program is draining taxpayer funds from public schools in desperate need of additional funding – and against the will of Arizona voters. If the current members of the state legislature will not fulfill their constitutional duty to fully fund public education, Arizona voters of all political stripes will look to elect new representatives who will.

K-12 Roundup

Voucher Impact Hits AZ Schools Hard: While voucher pushers like to pretend that vouchers won’t hurt local public schools, we have always known that to be a vicious lie. 

As Arizona’s public schools have been defunded for decades, there is no budgetary cushion. When voucher funding leaves local school districts, the kids left behind are impacted. And we are already seeing the devastating impacts of universal ESA voucher expansion: 

Paradise Valley Closing Schools. PVUSD is considering closing 4 of its schools after this year, impacting not only the thousands of students in those schools but also students and staff in the 10 schools that will be forced to dramatically grow their enrollment to absorb the students from the closing schools. Meanwhile, voucher enrollment in PVUSD boundaries has increased from 355 students to 2,712 in the last year, leading to a $26.5 million drain on the state budget as well as local budget decreases that now impact the entire community.

Dysart Laying Off Social Workers. Dysart USD has voted to eliminate all social worker positions after this school year, saying they have no funding to continue the positions after federal Covid relief dollars go away next fall. Voucher enrollment in DUSD boundaries has increased from 376 students to 1,657 in the last year, leading to a $16.2 million drain on the state budget as well as local budget decreases that now impact the entire community. 

Flagstaff Cutting Transportation. FUSD is cutting transportation services for nearly 600 high school students following new guidance from DPS on school bus capacity. Because the district is facing budgetary constraints, it cannot meet new requirements and is forced to cut access for students. Voucher enrollment in FUSD boundaries has increased from 43 students to 740 in the last year, leading to a $6.7 million drain on the state budget as well as local budget decreases that now impact the entire community. 

Unfortunately, these closures and layoffs predict the future in many communities across Arizona. The impacts of vouchers on an already starved system will lead to a domino effect of limited extracurriculars and programming, teacher and staff layoffs, 4-day school weeks, and more school closures. 

While some are attempting to blame this calamity on Arizona’s declining birth rates, Arizona’s population growth rate is double that of the US, resulting in our 5-19 age population remaining stagnant since 2010. The one thing that has changed rapidly in the past two years? Universal ESA voucher expansion, which is set to divert nearly $1 billion in public funds away from local public schools this coming year alone.  

All of this is to say — it’s the vouchers.

Public School Proud!

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

Know a story you think we should spotlight? Send an email to to let us know!

In the Pendergast Elementary School District in Phoenix, the 8th Grade Superintendent’s Student Council spent a whole Saturday morning crafting pillows to donate to the Pillow for Kiddos program.

Connolly Middle School’s Honor Choir had the opportunity to perform at the Governor’s Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony and got to meet Governor Hobbs after the performance.

Congratulations to Aidri Pickett, Sophomore at Williams High School, for recording the first-ever women’s wrestling win in school history!

1000 Strong for Public Education

We’re excited to announce 1000 Strong for Public Education, a Save Our Schools Arizona Network campaign to demonstrate the overwhelming support for public education in communities across Arizona. 

We’re asking 1,000 people to make a meaningful financial investment in our work by the beginning of 2024. All fully tax deductible gifts go directly to our largest budget expense — our people, who live and work in the communities they organize. Every dollar helps!


Thank you for helping us work toward a future where a high-quality, fully-funded public education is available to all Arizona students.

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