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Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 1st General Session
Volume 5, Issue 7 • Week of February 20, 2023

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Hobbs Vetoes Sham Budget, Calls for Real Work to Begin

Hobbs’ First Veto: Gov. Hobbs broke out her veto stamp for the Republican majority’s first attempt at a budget: a one-sided, short-sighted and politically motivated “continuation” that offers no new solutions to the problems facing our state. Republicans are crying foul, but it’s choreographed theater: they know full well they still have months before the June 30 deadline. We hope this can signal a new phase of governing, with our elected officials moving away from the vitriol and beginning honest conversation on building a real, collaborative budget that will truly support Arizona educators and students. 

Parents’ Day at the Capitol: Arizona parents gathered at the Capitol this past week, thanking lawmakers for lifting the school spending cap (AEL), while also advocating for a long-term solution for the AEL. Parents met with lawmakers, urging them to fully fund the public schools that over 90% of families choose and encouraging them to reform universal ESA vouchers that threaten to decimate Arizona’s budget.

ESA Voucher Accountability: The week brought a small step forward for more accountability for the ESA voucher program as Senator Marsh’s SB1706 passed the Senate Education Committee. However, the road ahead is fraught: several Republicans insisted they’d work hard to prevent even this tiny modicum of transparency for the $600 million a year program. Use our one-click email to contact your lawmakers TODAY, urging them to support SB1706 and all additional universal ESA voucher accountability measures. If you’ve already emailed, please do it again! 

This week is “crossover week” at the Capitol. Most committees take a pause while lawmakers spend long days on the floor debating and voting on bills in order to send them to the other chamber. The only exceptions are the Appropriations and Rules committees, which are hearing a few bills we’re tracking. Use the extra time to contact your senator (for Senate bills) and representatives (for House bills) on the bills you care about in Rules, as these bills will almost certainly receive full votes this week. Next week, committees will resume, with House committees hearing Senate bills, and Senate committees hearing House bills.


Use Request to Speak on these bills before Monday at 8AM:

NO on SB1717

NO on HB2538

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Bills in Request to Speak


SB1717, sponsored by Steve Kaiser (R-2), would give incentive bonuses to teachers and district and charter schools for students who pass a qualifying dual enrollment course (which allows high school students to earn credit for college classes). Only about half of Arizona schools offer dual enrollment; low-income and rural students have the biggest access gaps. This makes the program just another kind of inequitable “results-based funding” — reinforcing the achievement gap in public schools instead of narrowing it. If lawmakers wish to truly support this program, they should dedicate resources up front to help families pay for dual enrollment and help districts recruit and hire certified teachers to teach courses. Scheduled for Senate Appropriations Committee, Thursday. OPPOSE.


HB2538, sponsored by Beverly Pingerelli (R-28), would allow district and charter schools to offer live, remote instructional courses for students in grades 9-12 in exchange for a portion of school funding. ADE would pay the district or charter an incentive bonus of $500 for each remote student who passes the course. Offering bonuses for passing grades monetizes learning and leads to cherry-picking of students and other forms of inequity. Passed House Education Committee; scheduled for House Appropriations Committee, Monday/Wednesday. OPPOSE.

Bills in Rules

After being heard in Rules Committees, these bills will go through caucus meetings (which usually happen once weekly) before being brought to a full vote.


SB1040, sponsored by John Kavanagh (R-3), would ban trans kids from using the school bathrooms, changing facilities and “sleeping quarters” that align with their gender identities. It would create a situation where trans kids couldn’t use any facilities at all without undue scrutiny of their bodies, calling that a “reasonable accommodation.” Anyone who “encounters” a trans person in a bathroom could file suit against public schools. Having students use employee bathrooms could also require giving students keys to teacher lounges, potentially leading to safety issues. A federal court found that these policies violate the US Constitution and Title IX, so in addition to being monstrously cruel, this would open Arizona to a host of lawsuits at taxpayer expense. Kavanagh also introduced the bill last year, but it did not receive a hearing. As with other divisive, manufactured culture-war bills, we expect Gov. Hobbs to veto this if it makes it to her desk. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.


SB1410, sponsored by Justine Wadsack (R-17), would extend so-called “1487 complaints” to school boards. Passed in 2016, SB1487 allows any state lawmaker to order the Attorney General to investigate whether a city is violating state law. Under this bill, lawmakers could use 1487 complaints to block school boards from enacting policies they disagree with, obstructing local control. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.


SB1577 and its companion bill SCR1035, sponsored by JD Mesnard (R-13), would mandate that, if Arizona has a budget surplus in any given year, the state must automatically cut income tax rates by 50% for the following year. Arizona has just begun to dig itself out of the Great Recession, which left Arizona underfunded in nearly every area and still struggling to fund K-12 schools. Meanwhile, Arizona still gives away more money every year in tax cuts, credits and carve-outs than it spends in its budget. The budget surplus isn’t evidence that we’re collecting too much revenue; it’s evidence of lawmakers’ persistent unwillingness to invest in our public schools and services. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.


SCR1025, sponsored by Justine Wadsack (R-17), would ask voters to insert the “parents bill of rights” into the state Constitution. This concept, pushed by the extremist Center for Arizona Policy, is often wielded as a far-right political bludgeon against public schools, while not applicable to private schools receiving taxpayer funds via vouchers. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.


SCR1034, sponsored by JD 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 real motivation for lawmakers to work together and avoid shutting down our state. In recent years, lawmakers have finished nearly every budget with days or even hours to spare before the start of the next fiscal year. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.

ESA voucher funded schools are under scrutiny in Arizona, as details continue to emerge about how ESA vouchers are being spent. Here are some highlights from the past two weeks:

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State-funded discrimination. The Arizona Republic recently reported two gay fathers were confronted at a private school funded by ESA vouchers in the East Valley. Staff told the dads they were not welcome on campus, and that their child would not have been allowed to enroll had the school known they were gay. 

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State-funded hate. Many private schools receiving ESA vouchers have anti-LGBTQ admissions processes. For example, Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point Academies mandate that students, parents and staff attest to a hateful statement of faith. 

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Questionable purchases. The Guardian recently reported that Arizona’s overly expansive universal ESA vouchers are being used for unaccountable and questionable purchases, including “chicken coops, ice-skating and cowboy roping lessons.” Supt. Horne’s newly appointed ESA Director Christine Accurso says she’s approved 171,575 orders since taking over in January (or about 6,000 spending approvals per day).

The nation is watching as Arizona’s universal ESA voucher fiasco fails. Catch our recent OpEd here.

Bills in Motion

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” first require caucus meetings, which usually happen once weekly, before being brought to a vote.

Attacks on teachers & curriculum:

  • SB1305, Mesnard (R-13), would ban teaching “controversial topics” in district and charter schools (but not ESA taxpayer-funded private schools). Violators would lose their licenses and face $5,000 fines. Doesn’t apply to taxpayer-funded private schools taking ESA vouchers. See duplicate bill HB2458, sponsored by Beverly Pingerelli (R-28). Awaits Senate Rules. OPPOSE.
  • SB1323, Hoffman (R-15), would make it a felony for any public school employee to violate last year’s prohibition 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 Senate Rules. OPPOSE.
  • HB2458, Pingerelli (R-28), is the third year for a ban on teaching “controversial topics” in schools. Teachers could lose their certificates, and districts would face penalties of up to $5,000. Doesn’t apply to taxpayer-funded private schools taking ESA vouchers. Awaits House Rules. 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. Awaits House Rules. OPPOSE.
  • HB2533, Gillette (R-30), would require public schools to post a list of every single item teachers use or discuss with students. Doesn’t apply to taxpayer-funded private schools taking ESA vouchers. Awaits House Rules. 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 House Rules. 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 Senate Rules. OPPOSE. 
  • HB2014, Livingston (R-28), would more than triple over 3 years the amount Arizona spends on a specific type of STO voucher. Awaits House Rules. OPPOSE.
  • HB2504, Parker (R-10), would expand STO vouchers to students in foster care. Public schools serve the vast majority of foster youth, and they are already eligible for ESA vouchers. Awaits House Rules. OPPOSE.

Attacks on schools, school boards, districts:

  • 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 Senate Rules. OPPOSE. 
  • SB1174, sponsored by John Kavanagh (R-3), would force schools to lose funding for students who are absent more than 10 days. Many situations, including family trauma, life-threatening accidents, and more can lead to unreported absences. Awaits Senate Rules. OPPOSE. 
  • SB1331, Shamp (R-29), would allow parents to carry guns on school property with a valid concealed weapons permit, violating federal law. Awaits Senate Rules. 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 Senate Rules. OPPOSE. 
  • SB1694, Hoffman (R-15), would ban the state, including public schools, from requiring “diversity, equity, and inclusion programs” for its employees. Awaits Senate Rules. OPPOSE.
  • SB1696, Hoffman (R-15), broadly doubles down on a ban on district and charter schools exposing minors to “sexually explicit materials.” Being amended to apply only to cities and counties. Awaits Senate Rules. 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 House Rules. OPPOSE.
  • HB2546, Jones (R-17), would force any school district with at least 35,000 students to call an election to decide whether to split the district into two or more. This could lead to educational gerrymandering. Awaits House Rules. OPPOSE.

Attacks on direct democracy: 

  • SCR1002, Kern (R-27), would ask voters to require a supermajority vote on constitutional amendments. Awaits Senate Rules. OPPOSE.
  • 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 Senate Rules. OPPOSE.

Resources & Accountability:

  • SB1281, Shamp (R-29), gives state income tax rebates of $200 individual, $400 joint, for anyone who filed a return in 2022. This could cost $540 million to $1.1 billion, which would spell massive cuts to K-12 education. Awaits Senate Rules. OPPOSE.
  • SB1657, Bennett (R-1), would reinstate a statewide K-12 exit test. Scheduled for Senate Education Committee, but held. Dead in its current form, but could be revived via striker. OPPOSE.
  • SB1674, Epstein (D-12), would require a cost study of Arizona online instruction to make sure students are learning and taxpayer dollars are properly spent. Awaits Senate Rules. SUPPORT.
  • SB1706, Marsh (D-4), creates reporting that requires the ADE to release more information about who is using ESA vouchers and how taxpayer funds are being spent. Awaits Senate Rules. SUPPORT.
  • 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 House Rules. OPPOSE.

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