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Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 1st General Session
Volume 5, Issue 19 • Week of May 15, 2023

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Hobbs’ Budget Fails to Deliver

As we’ve made clear, SOSAZ is deeply disappointed in the budget negotiated by Gov. Hobbs and Arizona Republicans this week. You can read our full response to the budget here, plus news here and here and here

It’s no exaggeration to say Hobbs’ budget reads like a Ducey budget. Most discouraging, the failure to in any way address the growth of Arizona’s exponentially growing ESA voucher program spells economic doom for our state and the public schools that 92% of Arizona families choose. 

Though legislative session has not yet adjourned, there is now little to no likelihood that lawmakers will take any action this year to get a handle on Arizona’s out-of-control ESA voucher program. This means they are allowing the program to continue to spiral at a rate of over 1,000 enrollees per week, on track to double by this time next year — a $500 million expenditure from this year that will become a $1 billion expenditure next year. With pro-voucher special interest groups pouring marketing dollars into the state to advertise vouchers prior to the new school year, the program will soon become so entrenched that a rollback could be impossible. 

Bottom line: unchecked ESA voucher growth poses an imminent threat to local public schools and our state. The Rainy Day Fund didn’t receive any investment in this year’s budget and only contains enough money for about 3 months of state expenses; it simply won’t cover the additional costs of subsidizing private school and homeschool for families who were already choosing those options. Lawmakers have spent all the surplus and revenues are plummeting. The next step on this path is slashing school budgets. Even with public school enrollment holding steady, budget cuts ultimately mean teachers and staff will be let go, classrooms will close, and neighborhood schools will be shuttered. Please tell Gov. Hobbs how you feel about this budget using this form

Budget Recap

K-12 wins and losses in this budget:

Public School Funding

  • One-year override of the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL)
  • $368 million in one-time funding for school facilities 
  • $300 million in one-time funding for district and charter schools based on weighted student count (can be used for M&O and/or capital expenses)
  • Repeal of Ducey’s backwards and inequitable results-based funding model, which redistributed $68.6 million to base funding
  • $157.7 million required by the yearly mandated 2% inflation increase for Prop 301 (which expires in 2026) 
  • $20 million increase to District Additional Assistance; 3% growth for Charter Additional Assistance
  • Raises the 2% mandatory annual increase for inflation to 2.9%
  • $36 million in one-time investments (including $15.5 million for dual enrollment classes, $10 million for music and art supplies, and $2 million for menstrual hygiene products)
  • Wrapped into budget bills: SOSAZ-opposed HB2538, which will allow live, remote instruction for grades 9-12 with bonuses for passing grades. This monetizes learning, leading to cherry-picking of students and other forms of inequity

ESA Voucher Program

  • Puts into statute the reporting requirements already being followed by ADE, including whether a recipient previously attended public school, disaggregation by disability category, grade level, English Learner status, and average award amount — fails to gather information on student demographics or family income, or where expenses are being directed
  • Does nothing to improve academic accountability or financial transparency of the program
  • Does not include any additional safety measures such as background checks or fingerprinting 
  • Does not include a cap on ESA voucher enrollment or a rollback of any eligibility provisions
  • Creation of an ad hoc committee to study “appropriate governance and oversight” for the program, with members appointed by House Speaker Toma, a strong proponent of the program remaining as-is; the committee has no obligation to make any changes 

Future Funding

  • Spends every cent of the more than $2 billion in surplus funds, leaving nothing for future years (JLBC projects future budgets will have little to no surplus due to Ducey’s flat tax and universal ESA vouchers)
  • No investment into the Rainy Day Fund to guard against recession or inflation
  • One-time K-12 spending paired with the reality of federal COVID relief funds going away in September 2024 means school districts must prepare for a harsh impact for the 2024-25 school year

Even though the budget is done, the legislature remains in session. We expect Hobbs to continue vetoing bills that attack students and the budget, but there’s no way to know what deals were made, what will happen with Prop 400 negotiations, and what the Republican majority will choose to do with various SCRs and HCRs (bills that leapfrog the governor’s signature or veto and go straight to the ballot in 2024). We must remain engaged and vigilant until this legislative session ends. 

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.

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South Phoenix Townhall

Tues, 5/16 – South Phoenix @ Phoenix Tool Bank REGISTER HERE

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Monday, 5/22 – Gira Educativa en Phoenix en Español @ Bret Tarver Education Complex REGISTER HERE

Education Advocacy Mini Sessions

Mondays at 6:30pm 

5/15 – Welcome to Team SOSAZ!

5/22 – Learning to Register Voters

5/29 – Letters to the Editor: Targeting Your Audience

Bills We're Tracking

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” must go through caucus meetings, which usually happen once weekly, before they can be brought to a vote.

We encourage you to scan this section and contact your senator or representatives directly, as applicable, on bills you care about. 

Key: ⚠️= veto-proof bill, 📥= on Gov. Hobbs’ desk, 🗑️ = vetoed

Ballot Referrals:

    • ⚠️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 House Rules Committee, then the floor (and the ballot). 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. Awaits House Rules Committee, then the floor (and 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 awaits House Rules Committee, then the floor (and the ballot). See duplicate bill HCR2038, Livingston (R-28). OPPOSE.
  • ⚠️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 the ballot). OPPOSE.

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. Awaits a House floor vote. 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. Awaits a House floor vote. 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 a House floor vote. 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. Awaits Senate Rules Committee. OPPOSE. 
  • HB2705, Biasiucci (R-30), would create a training pilot program for district and charter school teachers and staff that qualifies them to carry concealed in schools, and appropriate $10 million from the general fund to run it. Awaits Senate Rules Committee. 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 a Senate floor vote. 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. Awaits Senate Rules Committee. 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 a House floor vote. OPPOSE. 
  • 🗑️SB1331, Shamp (R-29), would allow parents to carry guns on school property with a valid concealed weapons permit, violating federal law. Vetoed 4/17. OPPOSE.
  • SB1410, Wadsack (R-17), would require public school boards (but not charter schools or ESA-funded voucher schools) to establish the equivalent of Supt. Horne’s “teacher snitch line” for parents to report purported violations of their rights. Awaits a House floor vote. OPPOSE.
  • SB1564, Kaiser (R-2), would allow private and ESA voucher students to try out for public school sports. Athletics should be something parents consider when choosing a school for their student. When parents opt out of local schools, they opt out of extracurriculars. Awaits a House floor vote. OPPOSE.
  • SB1596, Mesnard (R-13), would require school district offices to serve as polling places if elections officials ask for it, and require teachers to attend inservice training instead of volunteering at the polls. Awaits House Rules Committee. 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 a House floor vote; scheduled 3/20, but retained. OPPOSE. 
  • SB1694, Hoffman (R-15), would ban the state, including public schools, from requiring “diversity, equity, and inclusion programs” for its employees. Awaits House Rules Committee. 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.
  • 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. Mired in the concurrence process; after that, awaits transmittal to the governor’s desk (and a likely veto). OPPOSE.

Resources & Accountability:

    • SB1182, Bennett (R-1), would give private, for-profit universities a share of the $20 million in tax dollars that helps fund teacher training programs, decreasing funding meant for Arizona’s three public universities. This is not only privatization, but poor value for tax money. Awaits House Rules Committee. OPPOSE.
    • 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 cuts to K-12 education. Awaits House Rules Committee. A smaller, similar provision was wrapped into the budget. OPPOSE.
  • 🗑️SB1255, Kern (R-27), would restrict Arizona agency rulemaking and substitute the legislative process instead. This would kneecap the state’s ability to regulate unaccountable, wasteful spending, such as with universal ESA vouchers. Vetoed 5/9. OPPOSE.
  • SB1559, Kaiser (R-2), is a state tax cut for corporations. This would drain money from the state General Fund, spelling cuts to K-12 education. Awaits House Rules Committee. OPPOSE.
  • SB1577, 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. 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. Awaits Senate Rules Committee. 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. Wrapped into budget bills. OPPOSE.

Frustrated by what you see here? Use our one-click email tool to tell lawmakers you want Arizona to focus on real education needs, not bloated boondoggles: bit.ly/prioritizepubliced

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