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.