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Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 2nd General Session
Volume 6, Issue 16• Week of April 22, 2024

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The Veto Queen Strikes Again

Governor Hobbs has set a new record — the most vetoes in Arizona history. Hobbs vetoed 13 bills this week, making her grand total 185 vetoes since taking office in January 2023. This eye-popping number reflects the shocking number of partisan bills passed by extremist Republican lawmakers. Hobbs’ spokesperson told Axios that “radical legislators” should stop sending the governor bills that threaten abortion access, undermine democracy, and “attack our basic rights.” The governor has made it clear she will use her veto power on any bills that don’t have bipartisan support, so most vetoed bills simply indicate extremist Republicans throwing red meat to their base.

Sign our NEW online petition to urge Gov. Hobbs & AZ lawmakers to reform vouchers in this year’s budget. A budget without voucher reform is no budget at all. 

Hobbs’ vetoes this week included three bills SOSAZ opposed:

🗳️ SB1097 would have made school board elections partisan. In her veto letter, Hobbs said: “This bill will further the politicization and polarization of Arizona’s school district governing boards whose focus should remain on making the best decisions for students. Partisan politics do not belong in Arizona’s schools.”

SB1151 would have permitted the Ten Commandments to be displayed or recited in public school classrooms. In her veto letter, Hobbs cited “serious concerns about the constitutionality” of the legislation, seemingly referencing the legal separation between church and state in Arizona’s constitution. Far-right Senator Kern, who participated in the January 6th insurrection, accused Hobbs of “abandoning God” with her veto. 

🏳️‍⚧️SB1628 would have eliminated all mention of gender in state law, replacing it with an inflexible definition of biological sex as stated at birth. This legislation would have scrapped legal protections for trans Arizonans and would have forced public schools to discriminate against and target trans youth by separating sports teams, bathrooms, and other facilities.

Actions You Can Take

🔥Love our new billboard near the AZ Capitol? Help us put up a few more by donating at sosarizona.org/donate

It’s really ticking off all of the right people 😉

📧 Use our quick email tool to urge your lawmakers to reform and rein in out-of-control ESA vouchers! bit.ly/VoucherReform

☎️ Call your lawmakers to tell them to reform and rein in out-of-control ESA vouchers! Here’s the Senate, here’s the House!

Voucher Watch

📰 NEW: Districts across AZ are being forced to foot massive bills for ESA #voucher student evaluations — with NO reimbursement. This pulls critical special education resources away from public school students, and is draining millions from AZ’s already severely underfunded public schools.  

 

According to Joe Dana’s recent report, expanded universal vouchers have sparked a surge of ESA voucher families going to school districts seeking special needs evaluations for their students. Because special needs students receive far more funding on an ESA voucher (up to $40,000), this has major implications for district budgets and the state budget. 

 

“The families get an evaluation — at a considerable financial cost to districts — and then obtain ESAs for homeschooling or private school.” Because these families are not enrolled in the district, schools receive no funding to facilitate special education evaluations, which can carry considerable costs and pull psychologists, counselors, special education teachers, and general education teachers away from their service to students enrolled in the district schools — and directly impacting the services for special education students. 

 

Dr. Curtis Finch, Superintendent of Deer Valley School District, says the district has spent over $500,000 in professional hours to perform special needs evaluations for ESA voucher students this year alone. These evaluations can range from $3,500 to nearly $7,000 per student — and with no reimbursement from the state or from ESA voucher parents, this pulls massive funds from chronically underfunded schools.

“They’ve been coached.” Finch expressed frustration: “I know why families are coming to us. It's because of our expertise. I have staff members that are highly trained… What families often tell us, ‘Oh yeah, I'm coming to your school.’ They've been coached. And so we start the process. And then sure enough, as soon as they get the designation that they want, then they're gone. Obviously the impact on our system is time. All these people, my specialists, have now spent a bunch of time doing all these evaluations. And then they have less time for my students who are actually in my system.”

Arizona State Representative Nancy Gutierrez said the state legislature should provide a system to reimburse school districts for evaluations of ESA voucher students: “I think people don’t understand how much time this testing takes from school psychologists, speech pathologists and even special education teachers. We have so many Democratic bills that deal with reining in ESA [vouchers] and not one of them was heard in committees this year.”

Tell lawmakers that Arizona voters don’t want a budget without major ESA voucher reform today at: bit.ly/VoucherReform 

Voucher Watch: Across the States

As many state legislatures begin to wrap up their legislative sessions, voucher lobbyists are swarming and special interests are laying massive pressure to privatize public education via vouchers. We have some good news and bad news this week from across the states: 

🎉 Idaho: Good news! Public education advocates defeated private school vouchers for the fifth time in six years. The Legislature has recessed and will come back next Wednesday to see if they need to override any vetoes. The new tax credit bill is sitting in committee and could raise its ugly head next week, but it looks like it is dead for the year.  

🤞 Tennessee: There are good reports from TN that their voucher bills are stalled. However, as with Arizona, nothing is dead until the legislature adjourns. Yesterday, state troopers removed parents protesting the voucher program from the House Gallery. Read our OpEd published in the Tennessean warning of the dangers of vouchers. 

😡 Nebraska: Nebraska lawmakers approved vouchers in an 11th hour move this week. Thanks to sneaky legislative maneuvering, voters can’t repeal this voucher program. The fate of the citizen’s referendum on vouchers, which was set to be on the 2024 ballot, remains uncertain.

Around the Horne

The Plot Thickens: While we have reported on the ongoing issues with Title-1 funding for the 2024 to 2025 school year, it has now come to light that there were unrelated, unresolved issues with last year’s Title I federal poverty funding as well. AZ Central’s Nick Sullivan did a deep dive into the issue to get to the bottom of the discrepancies, despite the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) misleading and giving him false information along the way.

In February, multiple school districts across the state suddenly lost tens of thousands of dollars from their Title I funding. When school districts began reaching out to the ADE to request an explanation for the lost funds, they were told that they had made mistakes in their reporting and that, in fact, no money was missing. 

ADE officials even went as far as to blame the school districts for lacking institutional knowledge due to staff turnover issues. Supt Horne used the incident as evidence that small school districts should be consolidated because, in his words “they don’t have competent administration.”

Horne’s ADE Can’t be Trusted: After weeks of questioning, the Department walked back their earlier statements and revealed they did reallocate money after all and the school districts were not mistaken. Despite Horne blaming staff turnover at districts for an issue his department caused, he has also bizarrely rejected that staff turnover at the ADE could have contributed to the error. At least seven leadership positions that deal with Title I funding have experienced turnover since Horne took office a year and a half ago. 

This incident is yet another example of the severe disconnect between Superintendent Horne and the public schools he was elected to serve. David Dumon, Superintendent of Altar Valley School District, says that the whole ordeal has made it hard to trust Horne’s ADE: “Why can’t they just be honest from the get-go instead of making me feel like I’m not right? It’s just disappointing that this is how it worked out.”

This will have real impacts on students and teachers, as well. Jon Lansa, Tucson Unified School District’s senior director for grants and federal programs, explained how the damage from Horne’s mistake has already been done: “We lost programming. We lost support. We had to be conservative in what we were doing, and it’s unfortunate that some of that money probably went unspent because we couldn’t spend it not knowing if it would be there or not.”

The Plot Thickens: While we have reported on the ongoing issues with Title-1 funding for the 2024 to 2025 school year, it has now come to light that there were unrelated, unresolved issues with last year’s Title I federal poverty funding as well. AZ Central’s Nick Sullivan did a deep dive into the issue to get to the bottom of the discrepancies, despite the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) misleading and giving him false information along the way.

In February, multiple school districts across the state suddenly lost tens of thousands of dollars from their Title I funding. When school districts began reaching out to the ADE to request an explanation for the lost funds, they were told that they had made mistakes in their reporting and that, in fact, no money was missing. 

ADE officials even went as far as to blame the school districts for lacking institutional knowledge due to staff turnover issues. Supt Horne used the incident as evidence that small school districts should be consolidated because, in his words “they don’t have competent administration.”

Horne’s ADE Can’t be Trusted: After weeks of questioning, the Department walked back their earlier statements and revealed they did reallocate money after all and the school districts were not mistaken. Despite Horne blaming staff turnover at districts for an issue his department caused, he has also bizarrely rejected that staff turnover at the ADE could have contributed to the error. At least seven leadership positions that deal with Title I funding have experienced turnover since Horne took office a year and a half ago. 

This incident is yet another example of the severe disconnect between Superintendent Horne and the public schools he was elected to serve. David Dumon, Superintendent of Altar Valley School District, says that the whole ordeal has made it hard to trust Horne’s ADE: “Why can’t they just be honest from the get-go instead of making me feel like I’m not right? It’s just disappointing that this is how it worked out.”

This will have real impacts on students and teachers, as well. Jon Lansa, Tucson Unified School District’s senior director for grants and federal programs, explained how the damage from Horne’s mistake has already been done: “We lost programming. We lost support. We had to be conservative in what we were doing, and it’s unfortunate that some of that money probably went unspent because we couldn’t spend it not knowing if it would be there or not.”

On the Governor's Desk

SOSAZ has asked Governor Hobbs to veto these bills. You can too: just email engage@az.gov. To help streamline your request, put “VETO” and the bill number in the subject line. 

SB1182, sponsored by John Kavanagh (R-3), is a shower-only version of last year’s “bathroom bill” that would ban trans kids from using the showers at school that align with their gender identities. Anyone who “encounters” a trans person in a shower area could file suit against public schools. A federal court found that these policies violate the US Constitution and Title IX, so in addition to being monstrously cruel and creating harm from continued anti-trans rhetoric, this would open Arizona to a host of lawsuits at taxpayer expense. Polls show that Americans from every political ideology and age group oppose anti-trans legislation. Gov. Hobbs vetoed last year’s bill. OPPOSE.

Introducing the Save Our Schools Arizona Legislative Bill Tracker! This is your one-stop shop for following the K-12 legislation lawmakers will be debating in the 2024 legislative session.

Click here or on the image above to access the tracker. This is a live link that will continue to be updated as new information becomes available. Bookmark the link so you can access the tracker anytime!

Upcoming Events

SOSAZ and partner orgs have already engaged over 1000 people in action summits across the state! Each summit has been unique, enlightening, and an absolute blast, and has drawn dozens of groups and hundreds of volunteers ready to connect, learn and engage. We are SO excited to finally bring all we’ve learned and more to the Tucson area June 8th, 2024!

Pima County Action Summit

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Tucson area – More details coming soon! Register here!

Running for school board and need support? Join SOSAZ and our partners for a 4-part training series available in April, May, and June!

School Board Candidate Training Series

See all upcoming training dates and REGISTER HERE

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Volunteer Outreach Weekly Virtual Phonebanks

Call SOSAZ volunteers to tell them about important events and help them engage in ways to help flip the Legislature! We have a lot of fun, join us!

Next one: Thursday, April 18 from 5:30 – 7:00 pm

Register here!

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Persuasion Training & Canvass for Judy Schwiebert and Stephanie Simacek

Saturday, April 20, 10:00 am-1:00 pm

1524 W. Bell Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85023

Register here!

Up your game in reaching swing voters in this persuasion training and try out your new skills right after in a community canvass. Drivers and Door Knockers needed!

Upcoming Events

Click Here for a list of all of SOSAZ’s upcoming online and in-person events!

Public School Proud!

Check out some incredible pictures and stories from across the state that make us #PublicSchoolProud! Know a story you think we should spotlight? Send an email to tyler@sosarizona.org to let us know!

Congratulations to the Liberty High School FCLAA team for their amazing job at the FCLAA State Cupcake Decorating competition. Elle placed third and Isabella earned a gold score! Way to go!

Students in Catalina Foothills’ HOSA-Future Health Professionals program got to practice real-world medical skills in a suture clinic led by two local doctors. It looks like our future medical care is in safe hands.

In Yuma, the Fourth Avenue Junior High School's Construction and Trades class constructed cat trees that they donated to the Humane Society of Yuma! Here is what the HSOY had to say: “Their thoughtful gesture of creating cat trees for our adopters demonstrates not only their creativity and craftsmanship but their empathy for animals in need.”

We are excited to announce SOSAZ’s *NEW* Public Education Defense Fund, which will protect Arizona students’ right to a safe, quality, accessible public school in their community.

Every dollar contributed to this fund will go directly towards electing pro-public education candidates up and down the 2024 ballot, from school board to the state legislature. 

Donate to SOSAZ’s Public Education Defense Fund Today!

Building a strong Public Education Defense Fund is essential to fighting back against increasingly dangerous political agendas that threaten our students’ right to learn in safety, acquire a truthful understanding of science and history, and succeed in excellent public schools.

Your contributions will help us recruit, elect, and support public education champions running for local school boards and the Arizona state legislature, shifting the balance of power at the Arizona state legislature towards one that will prioritize, fund, and defend Arizona’s public school students, educators, and classrooms. 

Thank you for helping us work toward a future where a high-quality, fully-funded public education is available to all Arizona students.

Get Plugged In!

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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.

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