Stacked Transparent SOSAZ Logo

Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 1st General Session
Volume 5, Issue 345• Week of September 4, 2023

Click here to jump to a section!

The Powerful Dark Interests Pushing Vouchers

This week, a bombshell article in the Washington Post revealed more powerful special interests behind the push for universal vouchers – all under the guise of “parental rights.” 

Michael Farris, an extremist who has pushed for the eradication of public education for many decades, recently urged a secretive group of far-right Christian multimillionaires called Ziklag to push universal vouchers to siphon billions of tax dollars from public schools across the county. The leader of Ziklag was caught saying, “Our goal is to take down the education system as we know it today.”

Farris has led movements to undermine public education, ban books, and ban schools from teaching about race and gender for many decades, and has claimed that school leaders are “directly attacking the Christian worldview” by teaching secular values. As the founder of the Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-public education hate group that is based right here in Arizona, he has pushed for strategies to ensure the Supreme Court will rule vouchers a constitutional right for all parents, thereby eradicating public education. 

Save Our Schools Arizona has been tracking these deep-pocketed, dark money groups and their pernicious attacks on public education for many years. For additional reading on these powerful special interests, read our blog “Selling School Choice” which lays out the dark web of well-funded, elaborate forces pushing vouchers for the purposes of profit and spreading Christian nationalism. It’s a MUST read. 

Voucher Myths & Facts

Our new graphic will help you slice through the rampant myths (and all-out lies) about Arizona’s universal voucher scheme once and for all! To learn more, read our detailed blog at bit.ly/ESAmyths.

Upcoming Events!

Are you ready to learn more and harness your power to be a parent advocate? Join us for any one of these dates to hear our BRAND NEW, short, engaging presentation for parents about how schools are funded, why PTOs and PTAs have to do so much fundraising, and what we can do about it! Sign up HERE:

Welcome to Team SOSAZ! – Tuesday, September 5 at 6:30 pm – Register HERE!

Voter Registration Training – Saturday, September 9 at 10 am – Register HERE!

Yuma Rural Action Summit – November 4 – Mark “Going” HERE!

Public Education Townhall in Tucson – next Saturday 9/9 from 1 – 3 at Amphitheater High School – Register at https://bit.ly/PublicEdTH

Celebration of Arizona’s Public Schools

Fundraiser at the Arizona Science Center

Saturday, September 23, 5:30pm

Get your tickets HERE

Get Plugged In!

unnamed-86

Have you signed the AZ Loves Public Schools Pledge yet? Be part of our growing community of public school supporters, sign the pledge and then share with your friends! Also check out our map of Arizona’s public school supporters and help us fill it in!

Don’t forget to join us on social media. Pick your favorite(s) and join us for fun, engaging content!! This is where we post important updates, key news articles, and informative graphics and videos you can’t get anywhere else.

Voucher Watch

Nebraska: We are celebrating our allies in Nebraska, who turned in enough signatures to put their state’s dark-money driven voucher scheme on their 2024 ballot!

Earlier this year, the Nebraska state legislature passed an STO tax credit voucher program that would divert up to $100 million dollars from the state’s general fund to private schools. But just like Arizona, public education advocates refused to lay down without a fight. They formed a volunteer-led grassroots group, Support Our Schools Nebraska, and successfully collected signatures in order to place the measure on the ballot as a referendum. On Thursday, Support Our Schools submitted 117,000 signatures to the Nebraska Secretary of State’s office — double the minimum requirement. 

While the Nebraska Secretary of State must verify those signatures before the measure is formally placed on the ballot, the wide margin collected by Support Our Schools all but guarantees voters the chance to have their voices heard next fall. We are sure that, just like Arizona, Nebraska voters will soundly reject this voucher scheme!

Around the Horne

ICYMI: Check out this op-ed by public education activist Elijah Watson on how Superintendent Tom Horne’s anti-LGBTQ policies put students at risk:

“If anyone had told me when I started advocating on behalf of my peers in a racially diverse school district in downtown Phoenix several years ago that, rather than focusing on the worryingly low number of school counselors or the mold I saw growing on the boys bathroom ceiling, we would instead see elected officials focus their efforts on restricting which students can use the bathroom, I would have said they were out of their mind. 

Yet, this is our unfortunate reality, and Arizonans are tired of it.”

Read the full commentary here!

K-12 Roundup

Arizona leaders are looking at a “perfect storm” when it comes to K-12 funding in the next few years. 

  • Gov. Ducey’s “flat tax” is tanking revenues, and lawmakers spent every cent of the state’s $2.5 billion surplus in this year’s budget, much of it on pork-barrel projects. This means next year will be lean, with no hope of adding ongoing funding for schools or teacher pay raises — or roads, public safety, or health care. 
  • Vouchers threaten to bankrupt Arizona. Costs are projected to reach $950 million this school year, a massive sum that lawmakers haven’t budgeted for. 
  • Federal COVID relief dollars are drying up this school year, meaning this crutch Arizona schools have been relying on will be gone next school year. 
  • Prop 123 will sunset in 2025, stripping hundreds of millions of dollars from K-12 education unless state leaders can find a solution. 

The Arizona Capitol Times laid out the issues surrounding dwindling COVID relief dollars this week. As they explained, the bulk of funds for this school year are going to staff — meaning the lack of funds will lead directly to staff cuts next year and “anxiety runs high throughout public education as the cut-off relief dollars coincides with a dwindling general fund.” Much of the dollars have gone to educator salaries, as well as technology and facility repair (which should be fully covered by the state, but is not in Arizona).

Marisol Garcia, president of the Arizona Education Association, said school districts are particularly worried going into the next year when Covid relief funding ends as the general fund sees further strain.

“This is a huge cliff we’re going to hit. The schools are very aware of the fact that the general fund is about to be depleted for the next year, there will be little to no money.” She pointed toward the growing cost of the Empowerment Scholarship Account program, which is estimated to hit nearly a billion dollars by July 2024, as a cause.

Because of the one-time nature of the Covid funds, Garcia said schools will likely have to go out for bonds or overrides to shore up appropriate funding.

Garcia said pandemic relief “was a stabilizing factor. But again, it was a Band-Aid to the larger issue … underfunding of public schools.”

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!

Check out some incredible pictures and stories from across the state that make us #PublicSchoolProud!

Say “Library”! To help inspire a love of reading and foster community ties, Desert Foothills Library in Cave Creek provided every student at Black Mountain Elementary School with a library card. These smiling faces say it all 😁

Students in the Andrada High School Level 2 Vet Tech program are practicing drug dose calculations and drawing up medications. Thanks to the Vail School District CTE program, they are learning valuable skills that prepared them for both college and their careers.

Dr. Daniel Bright Elementary School in Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District hosted a Community Week, inviting various members of their community to speak to their kindergarten classes. Pictured below is Dr. Sam from the Community Health Center of Yavapai teaching the students about germs and the importance of washing your hands.

Last Chance For Nominations! Know an incredible Arizona teacher, staff member or school leader? Nominate them for our Public Education Champions award today at bit.ly/CAPSaward. Nominations are due THIS WEEK, Tuesday, Sept. 5! Awards will be given out at the Celebration of AZ’s Public Schools on Sept. 23 — don’t forget to buy your tickets @ bit.ly/SOSAZtix

Upcoming Events!

Parents 4 Public Schools (3)

Are you ready to learn more and harness your power to be a parent advocate? Join us for any one of these dates to hear our BRAND NEW, short, engaging presentation for parents about how schools are funded, why PTOs and PTAs have to do so much fundraising, and what we can do about it! Sign up HERE:

Screenshot 2023-09-03 at 1.20.58 PM

Welcome to Team SOSAZ! – Tuesday, September 5 at 6:30 pm – Register HERE!

unnamed-33

Voter Registration Training – Saturday, September 9 at 10 am – Register HERE!

RAS Yuma FB

Yuma Rural Action Summit – November 4 – Mark “Going” HERE!

unnamed-25

Celebration of Arizona’s Public Schools

Fundraiser at the Arizona Science Center

Saturday, September 23, 5:30pm

Get your tickets HERE!

Get Plugged In!

Have you signed the AZ Loves Public Schools Pledge yet? Be part of our growing community of public school supporters, sign the pledge and then share with your friends! Also check out our map of Arizona’s public school supporters and help us fill it in!

unnamed-86

Don’t forget to join us on social media. Pick your favorite(s) and join us for fun, engaging content!! This is where we post important updates, key news articles, and informative graphics and videos you can’t get anywhere else.

Get Plugged In!

unnamed-86

Have you signed the AZ Loves Public Schools Pledge yet? Be part of our growing community of public school supporters, sign the pledge and then share with your friends! Also check out our map of Arizona’s public school supporters and help us fill it in!

Don’t forget to join us on social media. Pick your favorite(s) and join us for fun, engaging content!! This is where we post important updates, key news articles, and informative graphics and videos you can’t get anywhere else.

Get Your SOSAZ Merch

AZ Loves Public Schools Car Magnets & Yard Signs!

Be the first to order HERE!

Note: Yard signs are currently available only in Maricopa, Pima, and Yavapai Counties where our field team can personally deliver.  Check back for more counties soon!

Order AZ Loves Public Schools Tees, Tanks & Sweatshirts on AMAZON!

Be the first to order HERE!

Don’t forget your red #PublicSchoolProud shirt – order HERE. While we get ready to change suppliers, we’re offering 2 shirts for your donation of $30, or one for an $18 donation. Wear Public School Proud gear to show your dedication to well-funded public education in Arizona!

Join Team SOSAZ!

Sign up for a Community Action Team: East Valley, West Valley & North Phoenix, Scottsdale & Paradise Valley, Central & South Phoenix, Northern Arizona, and Southern Arizona! Your local coordinators will help you with using Request to Speak and contacting your lawmakers.

Request an SOSAZ Education Roadshow presentation HERE

Sign up to automatically receive the SOSAZ Legislative Weekly Report HERE

©2023 by Save Our Schools Arizona® All Rights Reserved. Not for use in whole or in part without permission.