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Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 1st General Session
Volume 5, Issue 26 • Week of July 3, 2023

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#TeamSOSAZ Takes Action as #AZLeg Sputters

As the Legislature sputters into a more-stop-than-start, barely-in-session model, we are morphing our Weekly Education Report into less of a legislative recap and more of a one-stop shop for all the Arizona education news that’s fit to print. We’ll keep the news coming to you every Saturday for the rest of the year, with an eagle eye on fraud, misspending and misuse of ESA vouchers, Superintendent Horne’s threats to public education, school board ups and downs, pro-public education candidates for 2024, and so much more! 

Voucher Cost Breakdown

 ESA vouchers are designed to choke the life out of public education; this program is set to siphon $900 million away from neighborhood public schools this upcoming school year (at an average of around $300,000 per school). But the special interests pushing vouchers are saying school dollars “follow the child” and that they “belong to the parent.” Let’s break down K-12 costs vs. voucher costs with some actual truth:

  • Fact: The average Arizona household pays a total of about $2,400 in sales tax and income tax per year. Only $1,100 of that goes to public schools. This means families taking $7,000 per child on a universal ESA voucher are taking far more than their fair share (and bankrupting our schools and our state). Read a more detailed breakdown in our blog here. Voucher cost fact check
  • Reality: Only a small fraction of a person’s tax dollars go to their own child’s education. The rest is used for shared expenses that all students need: teachers, classroom aides, principals, equipment, technology, resources, air conditioning, buses and school facilities. This shared attention to the education of all our state’s children is simply part of living in a society. If a family doesn’t use the bus (or the fire department) for a year, they don’t ask for money back; the same should be true for public education.

The sad truth is that when ESA vouchers strip funds away from public schools, every public school student in the state misses out on critically needed funding.

As the Legislature sputters into a more-stop-than-start, barely-in-session model, we are morphing our Weekly Education Report into less of a legislative recap and more of a one-stop shop for all the Arizona education news that’s fit to print. We’ll keep the news coming to you every Saturday for the rest of the year, with an eagle eye on fraud, misspending and misuse of ESA vouchers, Superintendent Horne’s threats to public education, school board ups and downs, pro-public education candidates for 2024, and so much more! 

Voucher Cost Breakdown

 ESA vouchers are designed to choke the life out of public education; this program is set to siphon $900 million away from neighborhood public schools this upcoming school year (at an average of around $300,000 per school). But the special interests pushing vouchers are saying school dollars “follow the child” and that they “belong to the parent.” Let’s break down K-12 costs vs. voucher costs with some actual truth:

  • Fact: The average Arizona household pays a total of about $2,400 in sales tax and income tax per year. Only $1,100 of that goes to public schools. This means families taking $7,000 per child on a universal ESA voucher are taking far more than their fair share (and bankrupting our schools and our state). Read a more detailed breakdown in our blog here. Voucher cost fact check
  • Reality: Only a small fraction of a person’s tax dollars go to their own child’s education. The rest is used for shared expenses that all students need: teachers, classroom aides, principals, equipment, technology, resources, air conditioning, buses and school facilities. This shared attention to the education of all our state’s children is simply part of living in a society. If a family doesn’t use the bus (or the fire department) for a year, they don’t ask for money back; the same should be true for public education.

The sad truth is that when ESA vouchers strip funds away from public schools, every public school student in the state misses out on critically needed funding.

Around the Horne

#TeamSOSAZ Takes Action as #AZLeg SputtersSuperintendent Tom Horne is facing backlash after his recent threats to defund the dual language instruction models that serve English Language Learners. This decision limits educational opportunities and the benefits of bilingualism, and must be challenged. Please add your voice to this letter from Stand for Children that urges the Arizona State Board of Education to reinstate the 50-50 dual language model by July 19 (when many Arizona schools reopen their doors). 

A Plan for School Facilities 

This week Gov. Hobbs issued a pair of executive orders: one that will update the state’s Minimum Adequacy Guidelines for School Facilities with expert input, and another that directs the Division of School Facilities to regularly inspect school buildings and report on their condition. 

Arizona’s Constitution specifies that the state must provide a “general and uniform” public school education for all Arizona children. Despite repeated court orders, lawmakers have ignored that constitutional obligation for years. Existing state law, passed more than two decades ago in the attempt to address a series of lawsuits, also requires school facilities to meet building standards and undergo regular inspections. However, the inattention of many successive legislatures and former Gov. Ducey has taken a very real toll on our public schools. 

For years, teachers and school officials have been sounding the alarm over aging school infrastructure issues — such as moldy carpets, leaking ceilings, broken A/C, and even buildings deemed unfit for human habitation — that are not receiving the legally mandated attention and correction. In 2019, the Arizona Republic reported that, despite the law, Arizona inspected only one single school for building deficiencies over a period of 3 years. And this year’s budget provides only a fraction of the funding the School Facilities Board said school buildings need. 

These executive orders do not and cannot replace a legislature that properly prioritizes and funds public education. Funding for the School Facilities Board, along with the money to pay for repairs, is supposed to come from the state Legislature. However, with these executive orders, Gov. Hobbs is doing what she can to get the ball rolling on maintaining Arizona’s aging school facilities and help ensure every Arizona student has access to a safe place to learn. 

Amid Teacher Retention Crisis, Other States Advertise to AZ Teachers

With many Arizona schools starting back up in just a few weeks, many district and charter schools are struggling to hire teachers. With dismally low pay, little support and extremely difficult working conditions, Arizona teachers are leaving the classroom in droves, some moving on to new jobs — and some to new states. #TeamSOSAZ Takes Action as #AZLeg Sputters

And these states are recruiting Arizona teachers by offering massive teacher pay raises. The Dallas Independent School District in Texas is advertising a salary range of $60,000 to $102,000 —up to double what many Arizona teachers earn. The Gallup-McKinley County School District in New Mexico is offering a $25,000 pay raise for educators coming from Arizona. Educators leaving Arizona for Colorado are reporting a 30% increase in pay. And with 1 in 4 Arizona classrooms lacking a permanent teacher, it’s our children who pay the price. 

Meanwhile, the New Mexico legislature has made significant investments in K-12 education over the past few years, advancing from 39th in per-student spending to 28th in just a few short years. New Mexico spent $9,582 per child in FY2018, which grew to $11,332 in FY2020. New Mexico’s governor also passed major teacher raises in 2022 in order to ameliorate their teacher retention crisis. This is what’s possible with a pro-public education governor and legislature. 

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Upcoming Events!

Upcoming RAS

Statewide Rural Action Summits – Mark Your Calendars!

Navajo Nation – July 22 – Register here!

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Speaking of Schools Event

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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!

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! 

#TeamSOSAZ Takes Action as #AZLeg Sputters
Need a repair? Fees College Prep Middle School has their own resident engineer who has built a manual lawnmower, dried cacti hiking poles, and a customized bike for their very own teacher, Ms. Shoup.
#TeamSOSAZ Takes Action as #AZLeg Sputters
Students from Desert Shadows Middle School in Nogales traveled to Albuquerque to attend the MESA National Engineering Design Competition at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.
#TeamSOSAZ Takes Action as #AZLeg Sputters
At Desert Oasis Elementary School in Nadaburg, students enjoyed a visit from Wildman Phil, who taught them about animals, built marshmallow structures, and made lemonade!
#TeamSOSAZ Takes Action as #AZLeg Sputters
The Taylor Hicks Elementary community in Prescott hosted a family garden party to harvest fresh fruits and vegetables from their community garden, as well as plant summer crops that students can harvest in the fall! The school community will be hosting another garden party on Saturday, July 15, from 7:30 to 10 PM.

Voucher Watch

In North Carolina, shocking private school voucher news is stalling their massive voucher expansion: new data shows many private schools there are being awarded more vouchers than they have students. 

Like Arizona, North Carolina’s voucher program lacks any meaningful oversight. Like Arizona, North Carolina doesn’t require voucher schools to be accredited, use approved curriculum, hire certified teachers, or participate in state testing. The new data shows that — just like Arizona — financial oversight is lacking. Private voucher schools must theoretically certify their tuition policies and verify that each student using a voucher is actually enrolled. But it’s unclear whether anyone is enforcing these requirements and checking if those certifications are true.

Arizona’s Voucher System Has the Lowest Standards In the Nation

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