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Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 1st General Session
Volume 5, Issue 11 • Week of March 20, 2023

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Horne’s Hostile Hotline Backfires

Monday marks day 71 of this legislative session, and thus far NONE of the many needs of Arizona schools — underfunded and overcrowded classrooms, overworked and underpaid educators, crumbling school facilities, and a lack of resources at every level — have been addressed. Many of our elected officials are busying themselves with such performative shenanigans that we’ve begun to wonder if it’s possible to die from secondhand embarrassment. (As our kids would say, it’s so cringe.) 

Supt. Horne is taking his direction from the Koch Industries machine, whose Astroturf groups are busily trying to spin the ridiculous narrative that teaching history and helping kids process their feelings are actually Trojan horses that conceal left-wing indoctrination. Voters are rejecting that narrative, but he’s trying anyway. In a very thinly veiled attempt to prop up ESA vouchers, he’s created a so-called Empower Hotline (602-771-3500), and is asking Arizona parents to do their best 1984 impression by reporting their children’s teachers for things that are, of course, not actually a thing.

This waste of taxpayer resources has provided an opportunity for Arizona parents to call and report the amazing things their children’s teachers are doing. In the first week, ADE says they’ve received just a few actual complaints along with 2,600 calls, voice mails and emails, most of which are in support of Arizona’s teachers. They also confirmed they do not even save recordings of these calls after they come in, which only begs the question of why our elected leaders are expending tax resources to investigate such “serious issues” using nothing more than word of mouth and innuendo. 

Meanwhile, we’ve received confirmation that legislative leadership intends to extend the deadline for bills to be heard in committees for one more week. These goalposts for legislative work are set in rule, not statute, so they can be moved or waived with a simple vote. Scan the list of bills in motion below and note that anything marked with the ⏱️icon now has until the end of the month before being considered dead for the year. 

Even as Arizona’s Senate President blames all our state’s problems on “men in bikinis” who “dance weird” (yes, these are actual quotes from this week), there are still real bills — bills that would address real issues — that are awaiting a hearing. Are you tired of politicians who put performative shenanigans above the needs of our state’s students, classrooms and educators? We are too. 

Use our one-click email tool to tell lawmakers you want Arizona’s real education needs prioritized once and for all. https://bit.ly/prioritizepubliced

Actions!

Use Request to Speak on these bills before Monday at 12PM:

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Bills in Committee

7

SB1026, sponsored by John Kavanagh (R-3), threatens school funding by prohibiting organizations that receive state tax dollars (including public schools) from hosting “drag shows” to entertain people under 18. Violators would lose state funds for 3 years. The bill’s definition of “drag show” is broad enough to include school plays such as Shakespeare or football players who dress up as cheerleaders for pep rallies. Identical bills have been introduced in several other states, prompting concerns of model legislation drafted by a hate group. The Legislature’s nonpartisan rules attorneys have told them the bill is unconstitutional. Scheduled for House Government Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE. 

7

SB1255, sponsored by Anthony Kern (R-27), would restrict Arizona agencies from creating rules that would increase regulatory costs by more than $500,000 over 5 years after implementation. The Legislature would instead be required to enact legislation to ratify the proposed rule into law. Although the far right says it will “rein in unelected bureaucrats,” this shortsighted measure would kneecap Hobbs and Mayes’ ability to regulate unaccountable, wasteful spending. A prime example is Arizona’s universal ESA voucher program; parents who use the program are complaining about the payment processor, ClassWallet, and a different vendor could cost easily that amount or more. In committee, the sponsor could not answer how many rules this would impact, but said “it shouldn’t matter.” Scheduled for House Government Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE.

7

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. Mirror bill HCR2038, sponsored by David Livingston (R-28), has been scheduled for House COW twice (3/1 & 3/2) but retained each time. Scheduled for House Appropriations Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE.

7

HB2523, sponsored by Barbara Parker (R-10), would require every K-12 student to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily at district and charter schools (but not private, ESA-funded voucher schools). The only exemption is for parents, or students over 18. In 1943, the US Supreme Court ruled that no school or government can compel someone to recite the Pledge of Allegiance because it violates the First Amendment. During House floor debate on 2/21, the sponsor asserted the US has no separation of church and state and refused to answer questions about her bill. Scheduled for Senate Education Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE. 

7

HB2539, sponsored by Beverly 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 publicity for taxpayer-funded ESA vouchers. If someone moves to Arizona and registers a car here, the information would be delivered to them along with their registration. This absurd bill would spend $600,000 per year and create four full-time positions to handle this work. Scheduled for Senate Education Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE.

7

HB2705, sponsored by Leo Biasiucci (R-30), would create an optional school safety training pilot program for district and charter schools, and appropriate $10 million from the general fund to run it. The legislation is intended to bring to Arizona the FASTER Saves Lives program, an “intensive training for school teachers and staff that qualifies them to carry concealed in schools.” Besides that obvious concern, opponents point out that Arizona’s public schools already offer similar training each year. Scheduled for Senate Appropriations Committee, Tuesday. OPPOSE.

7

HB2786, sponsored by Justin Heap (R-10), would require school boards to notify parents of recommended or funded “training opportunities” for teachers or school administrators. The new Horne administration considers social-emotional learning, diversity and equity to be Trojan horses for “critical race theory,” and has canceled planned teacher presentations on these and other “non-academic” subjects, even though the American Psychological Association says they positively impact kids’ lives and ability to learn. Scheduled for Senate Education Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE.

Last month, ESA Voucher Director Christine Accurso came out swinging when she worked to kill ESA accountability measure SB1706 by claiming she had no interest in opening rule-making. Last week, in a complete reversal, Accurso sent a letter to the State Board asking to open rule-making to draft a new ESA Parents Handbook

Her changes seem primarily focused on watering down certification requirements for tutors, codifying the changes she and Supt. Horne have already made that violate the current handbook. These changes include lowering accreditation requirements for tutors and extracurricular vendors to just a high school diploma. This Monday, March 20, the State Board of Education will consider Accurso’s proposed changes and decide whether to approve her Quarter 2 ESA report.

While our public school students suffer and families using ESA vouchers wait for hours on the ESA Help Desk hotline, Tom Horne is waking up at 1 am to brag about his “Empower” Hotline on Fox & Friends. It is clear the Department of Education lacks the focus needed to responsibly administer the out-of-control voucher program. 

Use our one-click email to contact your lawmakers TODAY, urging them to pass accountability for the universal ESA voucher program. If you’ve already emailed, please do it again!

Bills in Rules Committees

The goal is likely for these bills to receive a floor vote this week, so after you use RTS, contact your senator for Senate bills, your representatives for House bills.

Remember, the Rules committees don’t take public testimony and won’t read your comments.

SB1005, sponsored by John Kavanagh (R-3), would ban parents from having to pay attorney fees or damages if they lose a lawsuit against a public school or teacher (but not an ESA-funded private school or teacher). The sponsor said his bill was necessary because “the (public) school has unlimited resources.” The bill builds on a law passed last year that lets parents sue if they think their parental rights were “usurped.” The “parents bill of rights” concept, pushed by the extremist Center for Arizona Policy, is often wielded as a far-right political bludgeon. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE. 

SB1696, sponsored by Jake Hoffman (R-15), would double down on a bill passed last year by banning district and charter schools from exposing minors to “sexually explicit materials.” The incredibly broad description includes text, audio and video that references sexual contact, sexual excitement, and even physical contact with a person’s clothed or unclothed buttocks. This would ban many classic works of literature, from Shakespeare to Maya Angelou. Violations would be a class 5 felony, with a penalty of up to 2 years in jail. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.

Bills on the Floor

These bills are scheduled for a floor vote on Monday. Floor calendars come out the night before, so this list doesn’t include any bills that might be heard Tuesday through Thursday. We encourage you to scan the “Bills in Motion” section and contact your senator or representatives directly, as applicable, on bills you care about.

SB1694, sponsored by Jake Hoffman (R-15), would ban the state, including public schools, from requiring “diversity, equity, and inclusion programs” for its employees, spending public funds on such programs, or setting policies to influence the composition of its workforce on the basis of race, sex, or color. Any employee required to participate would be authorized to sue. Diversity, equity and inclusion is a philosophy designed to harness the differences, talents and unique qualities of all individuals. Of course, this bill does not impose any requirements on taxpayer-funded private schools receiving ESA vouchers. Scheduled for a Senate floor vote, Monday. OPPOSE.

SB1700, sponsored by Justine Wadsack (R-17), would double down on last year’s measures to ban many books from schools and institute public review of such books. Any parent would be allowed to ask a school to remove a book, ADE would be required to keep a list of banned books, and public schools would have to make a list of books available to the public for 4 months before giving them to students. The bill takes aim at “gender fluidity” and “gender pronouns,” and would introduce an inaccurate, weaponized definition of “grooming” into statute. Attempts to ban books in schools are on the rise nationwide, with a new focus on local school boards. This horrifying bill not only harms the fight against child sexual abuse, but harms our children’s ability to learn. Many of the books that some see as controversial reflect the realities kids across Arizona are living; choosing to pull reality out of libraries won’t create good citizens. Scheduled for a Senate floor vote, Monday; scheduled and held several times last week. OPPOSE.

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.


Key: ⚠️= veto-proof bill, ⏱️= time is running out, 📥= on Gov. Hobbs’ desk, ☠️= dead

Attacks on teachers & curriculum:

  • ⏱️SB1001, Kavanagh (R-3), would ban teachers from using a student’s chosen pronouns without written parental permission. This manufactured, divisive culture-war bill further politicizes teachers and will deepen Arizona’s ongoing teacher retention crisis. Doesn’t apply to taxpayer-funded private schools taking ESA vouchers. Passed the Senate on party lines. Assigned to House Education Committee, not yet on an agenda. OPPOSE.
  • ⏱️SB1040, Kavanagh (R-3), would ban trans kids from using the school bathrooms, changing facilities and “sleeping quarters” that align with their gender identities, further politicizing teachers. Doesn’t apply to taxpayer-funded private schools taking ESA vouchers. Passed the Senate on party lines. Assigned to House Education Committee, not yet on an agenda. OPPOSE.
  • ⏱️SB1323, Hoffman (R-15), would make it a felony for any public school employee to violate last year’s ban 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 House committee assignment. 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. Passed the full House 2/21 on partisan lines, with Republicans in support. Scheduled for Senate Education Committee, Wednesday. 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. Assigned to Senate Education Committee, not yet on an agenda. 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. Scheduled for Senate Education Committee, Wednesday. 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 House Rules Committee. OPPOSE. 
  • HB2014, Livingston (R-28), would more than triple over 3 years the amount Arizona spends on a specific type of STO voucher. Awaits Senate Rules Committee. OPPOSE.
  • HB2504, Parker (R-10), would expand STO vouchers to students in foster care. Public schools serve the vast majority of foster youth, who are already eligible for ESA vouchers. Scheduled for Senate Finance Committee, Monday. 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. Scheduled for House Government Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE. 
    • SB1331, Shamp (R-29), would allow parents to carry guns on school property with a valid concealed weapons permit, violating federal law. Passed the full Senate 2/21 on partisan lines, with Republicans in support. Awaits a House floor vote. OPPOSE.
    • ⏱️SB1410, Wadsack (R-17), would allow lawmakers to order the Attorney General to investigate if school boards are violating state law, potentially obstructing local control by blocking policies they disagree with. Assigned to House Education Committee, not yet on an agenda. 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. Passed the full Senate 2/16 on partisan lines, with Republicans in support. Awaits a House floor vote. OPPOSE. 
    • ⏱️SB1694, Hoffman (R-15), would ban the state, including public schools, from requiring “diversity, equity, and inclusion programs” for its employees. Awaits a Senate floor vote. OPPOSE.
    • SB1696, Hoffman (R-15), broadly doubles down on a ban on district and charter schools exposing minors to “sexually explicit materials.” Awaits House Rules Committee. OPPOSE.
    • ⏱️SB1700, Wadsack (R-17), is a broadly written book ban that takes aim at “gender fluidity” and “gender pronouns,” and would introduce an inaccurate, weaponized definition of “grooming” into statute. Scheduled for a Senate floor vote, Monday. OPPOSE.
  • ⏱️SB1704, Wadsack (R-17), would make it an “unlawful discriminatory practice” for public schools to ask for kids’ shot records. Vaccination rates in Arizona are dropping and measles is making a comeback; it’s dangerous to children. Assigned to House Health Committee, not yet on an agenda. OPPOSE.
  • ⚠️⏱️SCR1024, Wadsack (R-17), asks voters to enshrine racism in the state Constitution. This would negatively impact student learning, teacher retention and teacher recruitment. Assigned to House Government Committee, not yet on an agenda. OPPOSE.
    • ⚠️⏱️SCR1025, Wadsack (R-17), would ask voters to insert the “parents’ bill of rights” into the state Constitution as a far-right political bludgeon against public schools. Does not apply to private schools receiving taxpayer funds via ESA vouchers. Assigned to House Health Committee, not yet on an agenda. 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. Scheduled for Senate Education Committee, Wednesday. 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. Assigned to Senate Education Committee, not yet on an agenda. OPPOSE.

Attacks on direct democracy: 

  • ⚠️⏱️SCR1002, Kern (R-27), would ask voters to require a supermajority vote on constitutional amendments. Passed the full Senate on partisan lines, with Republicans in support. Assigned to House Government Committee, not yet on an agenda. 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. Passed the full Senate on partisan lines, with Republicans in support. Awaits House Rules Committee, then the floor (and the ballot). OPPOSE.

Resources & Accountability:

    • ⏱️SB1281, Shamp (R-29), gives state income tax rebates of $200 individual, $400 joint, to anyone who filed a return in 2022. This would drain $936 million from the state General Fund, which would mean massive cuts to K-12 education. Assigned to House Ways & Means Committee; not yet on an agenda. OPPOSE.
  • ⏱️SB1559, Kaiser (R-2), is a state tax cut for corporations. This would drain money from the state General Fund, which would mean cuts to K-12 education. Awaits House first reading and committee assignment. 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 Committee. SUPPORT.
  • ⏱️SB1675, Epstein (D-12), would make menstrual hygiene products available free of charge in public district and charter schools that serve students in grades 6-12. Awaits Senate Rules Committee. 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 Committee. SUPPORT.
  • ⚠️SB1577 and SCR1035, Mesnard (R-13), would mandate automatic 50% income tax cuts if Arizona has a surplus. These are permanent cuts to the state general fund – and desperately needed dollars that could be used to bring funding for K-12 schools out of the bottom 5 nationally. Awaits House Rules Committee, then the floor (and for SCR1035, the ballot). OPPOSE.
  • ⚠️SCR1034, 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 structural motivation lawmakers have to work together. SCR1034 is scheduled for House Appropriations Committee, Wednesday. Duplicate bill HCR2038, Livingston (R-28), never received a House floor vote. OPPOSE.
  • 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. Scheduled for Senate Appropriations Committee, Tuesday. OPPOSE.
  • ⏱️HB2538, Pingerelli (R-28), would allow live, remote instruction for grades 9-12, with bonuses for passing grades. This would monetize learning, leading to cherry-picking of students and other forms of inequity. Assigned to Senate Education and Appropriations Committees, not yet on an agenda. OPPOSE.
  • ⚠️⏱️HCR2038, Livingston (R-28), 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 structural motivation lawmakers have to work together. See duplicate bill SCR1034,  Mesnard (R-13). Awaits a House floor vote. OPPOSE.

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