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Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 1st General Session
Volume 5, Issue 47• Week of December 4, 2023

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Welfare for the Wealthy

A new in-depth analysis by The Hechinger Report reveals what SOSAZ has long stated: expanding vouchers universally doesn’t help low-income kids, it leads to private school price hikes that exclude low-income families, subsidize  the wealthy, and add major profits to private religious institutions. 

Wealthy families get a tuition “coupon”; schools collect both the voucher funds and tuition increases.

The analysis reviewed the websites of 55 Arizona private schools and found that nearly all raised their prices since 2022. Nearly half of the schools increased tuition by 10% or more in the one-year period. In 5 schools (nearly 10%), tuition increased by more than 20% during that time — raising costs much higher than inflation, and much, much higher than an ESA voucher. 

BREAKING! One year of universal ESA vouchers has profoundly impacted Arizona’s public schools, economy, and quality of education. 

Read our in-depth report detailing the negative impacts of universal vouchers HERE.

Some examples of these skyrocketing tuitions from 2022 to 2023 include:

  • Arrowhead Montessori in Peoria raised its tuition by nearly 40%, from $10,800 to $15,000 
  • Redeemer Christian School in Mesa raised its tuition by nearly 25%, from $10,479 to $12,979
  • Desert Garden Montessori in Phoenix raised its tuition by nearly 25%, from $12,950 to $16,000
  • St. Theresa Catholic School in Phoenix raised prices for non-Catholics by $1,800 (nearly 15%) to over $14,000

Clearly, universal vouchers are designed to send students to elite private schools — instead, they serve as a subsidy for the rich families who were already attending those schools (and affording tuition). Before Arizona expanded eligibility for ESA vouchers last year, the voucher pushing lobbyists at the Goldwater Institute deceptively argued a median award would cover most private school tuition. However, with median tuition on the rise statewide based on an influx of taxpayer funding, private schools are now no more accessible to low-income students than they were prior to universal ESA vouchers. 

“State leaders promised families roughly $7,000 a year to spend on private schools and other nonpublic education options, dangling the opportunity for parents to pull their kids out of what some conservatives called ‘failing government schools’… But now, some private schools across the state are hiking their tuition by thousands of dollars. That risks pricing the [low income] students that lawmakers said they intended to serve out of private schools, in some cases limiting those options to wealthier families and those who already attended private institutions.”

Meanwhile, as the article reports, many private schools are encouraging currently enrolled families to apply for and secure an ESA voucher to cover these skyrocketing tuition rates. “If a family was already able to pay $11,000, what’s stopping the school from increasing tuition by the average ESA voucher?” said Beth Lewis, Director of Save Our Schools Arizona. These tuition increases would then constitute straight profit for the private school. 

Joshua Cowen, professor of education policy at Michigan State University pointed out that ESA vouchers will not put high-tuition private schools within reach for most families — but they are designed to prop up dwindling private schools. He cited Betsy DeVos’ AFC campaign to “Save Catholic Schools” in a (failed) attempt to pass vouchers in Texas. “Vouchers are at least partly about bailing out financially distressed church schools,” Cowen said. “Once school vouchers come to town, taxpayers become the dominant source of revenue for churches.”

Upcoming Events!

Don’t Miss! Team SOSAZ has launched our Education Advocacy Series for November and December! Join us weekly every Sunday through December 17 to gain skills and knowledge that will empower you to take action as we head into 2024 and the legislative session

Register here: bit.ly/SOSAZseries 

Sunday, Dec 3 at 3:00 pm

Voter Registration is Your Superpower!

Register here!

NEW! Help Save Our Schools Arizona FUNdraise for 2024 — AND join us for a night of trivia, dancing, and virtual fun on Thursday, December 14 at 6 pm. We’ll be joined by special guests and you won’t want to miss it! 

Anyone can register to play even if trivia isn’t your thing. Just register, join a team, and ask folks to lend their support! The competition begins NOW! Register HERE

Get Plugged In!

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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.

Voucher Watch

An in-depth Politico article confirms that in Arizona and across the US, the families benefiting from vouchers are overwhelmingly the wealthy — despite voucher pushers selling them as a panacea for low-income students. 

Data shows that students aren’t leaving public schools for private options. Instead, most vouchers are going to students already enrolled in private schools and homeschooling, as well as kindergarten students. 

This dynamic is playing out nationally in states that have expanded vouchers universally without income requirements:

  • Florida: 87% of new voucher recipients were already in private schools or entering kindergarten. 50% exceeded the program’s previous income threshold.
  • Arkansas: 95% of voucher recipients were already in private schools or entering kindergarten. 75% come from the most urban areas of the state. 
  • Arizona: 78% of new voucher recipients were already in private schools or entering kindergarten, according to the ADE’s data sets. 45% came from the wealthiest zip codes in the state, according to the Grand Canyon Institute. 

It is evident that vouchers have become a blank check for affluent families. Paired with the Hechinger Report story cited above which chronicles private schools pricing out low-income families, it couldn’t be more clear that vouchers are rolling out as intended: as welfare for the wealthy.

Meanwhile, vouchers are set to siphon $950,000,000 (or $300,000 per school) away from local public schools that serve low-income and middle-income students across the state. Universal vouchers create a two-tiered system for the haves and have-nots, and must be reined in.

Bought and Sold Politicians. It’s important to note that these voucher expansions are not homegrown. As the article states, “School choice expansions are fueled, in part, by groups like the American Federation for Children — founded by former Trump administration Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — sending millions of dollars to candidates who support them.”  During the 2022 election cycle, AFC spent more than $9 million to elect school  “school choice” candidates with reportedly solid success — winning 277 out of 368 races. AFC has already vowed to “pump $10 million into contesting 2024 elections through a new national political action committee.” 

It’s important to note that AFC spent $250,000 in 2016 to buy the Arizona legislature it needed to pass universal vouchers. Then, in 2022, they spent $570,000 on AZ’s elections in order to keep the universally expanded voucher program they’d forced onto our state.

K-12 Roundup

Bond and override success! Across the state, school districts are making bold plans for future projects thanks to voter-approved bond and override measures from November. 

The Agua Fria High School District is grateful to the community for voting yes on their bond initiative. The money will allow the district to focus on funding priorities including campus safety, vocational and workforce programs, updated buses, a new school to address overcrowding, and much-needed building maintenance.

In an opinion piece, Superintendent Mark Yslas wrote: “The election results are a pivotal moment for our high school district and will help us accomplish what the community dreamed of in the 10-year strategic plan. We will continue to transform the dreams into reality and #makeithappen!

The Litchfield Elementary School District is looking toward the future after the community voted to approve a $100 million bond. The money will be used to make schools safer, to build a new school to address growth, and to modernize buildings and equipment. Superintendent Carter Davidson shared: “Our schools are the heart of the community, and this bond allows us to strengthen that foundation. The improvements will not only benefit current students but will also leave a lasting impact on generations to come.”

Around the Horne

SOSAZ has touched a nerve with Arizona’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, who obviously doesn’t like the spotlight SOSAZ has shone on ESA vouchers and his administration’s utter failure to manage the program. The Arizona Department of Education’s website clearly states that Lego sets are an approved purchase with documentation required. The ADE is deliberately obfuscating how tax dollars are being spent — on luxury items like ski trips, Apple watches, kitchen appliances and much more

Being accused of lying by Supt. Horne is particularly rich since he has been convicted of violating campaign laws and anti-fraud laws, as well as filing false financial reports. For our part, we will continue to shine a light on voucher fraud and abuse, as well as Horne’s mismanagement of the voucher program. 

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 tyler@sosarizona.org to let us know!

Holbrook High School has an entirely student-run team that produces ESPN-level broadcasts of every HHS basketball game; they even have multiple camera angles to switch between. Check them out in action!

The Life Skills class at Maricopa High School got their flip on: they put their cooking skills to work making a pancake feat for the whole class. They used a Charlie Cart, a mobile kitchen donated by a national nonprofit to help students learn cooking and nutritional skills.

Congratulations to Jose Hernandez, midfielder for Phoenix Rising and alumni of Glenn L Downs Social Science Academy in Cartwright School District, for his incredible performance and championship victory.

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!

DONATE HERE TO BECOME A CHARTER MEMBER

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

Get Plugged In!

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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.

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

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