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Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 2nd General Session
Volume 6, Issue 17• Week of April 29, 2024

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Ducey’s Vouchers & Tax Cuts Bust AZ Budget

Former Gov. Ducey and the Republican-led legislature delivered a one-two punch in 2021 and 2022 — first they passed tax cuts for the rich and then they forced in universal ESA vouchers. Now, their entirely predictable economic disaster has come to roost, and Gov. Hobbs is left to clean up the mess, which is a $1.8 billion budget deficit. 

Show me the money: But finding this kind of money in a cash-strapped state like Arizona is going to be tough for Hobbs — especially working with a Republican-led legislature that would sooner hurl themselves into traffic than limit the $1 billion a year ESA voucher program or undo Ducey’s massive tax cuts for the rich (which would require a 2/3 supermajority vote).

Cuts to agencies & services: This week, Gov. Hobbs sent agency heads a memo asking them to make recommendations for major cuts, to enact a hiring freeze, and to plan on zero pay raises. This means state services will likely be subject to an additional 4% in cuts beginning on July 1, on top of the cuts Hobbs already proposed in January. 

It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: Arizona working families shouldn’t have their services cut in order to fund vouchers for well-off families who could already afford private school, or to funnel money back to the wealthy via massive tax cuts. Republicans made this mess, and they should be forced to figure their way out of it, or roll back their harmful decisions. 

It’s time for all of us to stand up and say no more. No more cuts for vulnerable families in order to line the pockets of the rich. Sign our petition TODAY to tell lawmakers you demand ESA voucher reform NOW: bit.ly/voucher-petition.

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. 

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: Arizona

Arizona’s ESA voucher program has zero standards for financial transparency, academic performance, or student safety. As the devastating impacts of our state’s ESA voucher program snowball in the universal program’s second year, the verdict is clear: Arizona’s vouchers are the least accountable  in the US.

Read an excerpt from our newest blog below, or read the whole thing HERE.

🤑 Arizona’s runaway voucher program lacks the financial and enrollment caps of other states. North Carolina, which has a slightly larger population than Arizona, implemented a $415 million cap on its program. Even states like Iowa, Arkansas, and Florida are phasing in their universal programs to avoid an Arizona-style surge in cost. Other states limit which students are eligible for vouchers to ensure students with greater needs have access to the program; Indiana’s program is limited to students making up to 400% of federal poverty guidelines — unlike Arizona, where the majority of ESA voucher recipients reside in the wealthiest zip codes in the state

❌ AZ is the ONLY state with no academic accountability for universal vouchers. Countless studies show that voucher programs cause detrimental impacts on student learning — but in Arizona, there is simply no way to assess whether students in the program are more academically successful with a voucher than they were in a public school (if they were even attending public school in the first place). Arkansas, Iowa, Indiana, and Florida all require voucher students to either sit for state testing or take a nationally norm-referenced assessment. In Arizona, there are zero requirements for voucher students to show they are meeting state standards or even learning at all. 

🚸 Arizona’s ESA voucher program lacks any semblance of child safety measures. Indiana, Florida, Utah, and West Virginia all require that teachers participating in their state voucher systems pass a background check to ensure they can safely work with children. This is fairly common in states with targeted voucher programs as well; DC, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Wisconsin all have similar background check requirements. 

Arizona’s voucher program even lacks basic health and safety regulations for private schools, tutors, and vendors. Voucher-funded schools are not required to participate in health screenings, conduct standard fire and emergency evacuation drills, or have systems in place to deal with improper possession of firearms, drugs, etc. All but one of the states with voucher programs require voucher-funded private schools to comply with the same health and safety standards as district public schools. 

 Arizona’s ESA voucher program stands out as a stark example of what happens when basic accountability measures are completely disregarded in favor of pushing an ideological agenda. The disregard for financial transparency, academic oversight, and child safety measures sets a dangerous precedent not only for Arizona but for other states where voucher lobbyists have taken root. The consequences of this lack of accountability are dire: it undermines the educational outcomes of voucher recipients and exposes children to potential risks within inadequately regulated private schools. It also gouges taxpayers’ pockets with zero insight into whether students are even learning.

Voucher Watch: Tennessee

🎉 Congratulations to Tennessee public education advocates for successfully defeating a proposed voucher expansion! This week, Republican Governor Bill Lee conceded that his statewide voucher scheme would not pass the state legislature this year and is effectively dead.

The expansion effort failed in large part due to “significant pushback from local public school stakeholders across the state,” who used evidence from other states to bolster their case. Senate Minority Leader Raumesh Akbari of Memphis cited the “terrible record” voucher programs have in states like Arizona, specifically the lack of accountability and performance issues at private schools.

Her statement says it best: “Instead of throwing millions into a program that isn’t effective, let’s invest more in our public schools to give students the tools they need to be successful. Let’s talk about real solutions that work — spending more per pupil, paying teachers more, providing more academic supports for reading and math. Let’s make sure that rural and urban schools have the same resources as their wealthier suburban peers. We can and should do better.”

As the Legislature Turns

As of this week, Gov. Katie Hobbs’ total veto number is up to 195. As she warned the Senate last year, “I will veto every bill that aims to attack and harm children.” This week was no exception, as Hobbs exercised her well-used veto stamp to block Republicans’ latest discriminatory act against LBGBTQ+ students. SB1182 would have banned trans students from using the school showers designated for their gender identity, raising these students’ risk of sexual assault. Her two-sentence veto letter said simply, “As I have said time and time again, I will not sign legislation that attacks Arizonans.” We continue to be grateful for the firewall that is Gov. Hobbs’ veto power and her conviction to protect our state’s most vulnerable youth. 

The legislature’s work is definitely winding down for 2024. Talks on the state budget — lawmakers’ only constitutionally mandated responsibility — remain stuck at the starting gate. SOSAZ also continues to track 12 bills (which will surely be vetoed) and 6 referral packages, which would circumvent the governor’s veto power and appear directly on our November ballots. As always, it’s critical that we stay engaged until the legislative session ends. We will keep you updated every step of the way!

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. 

SB1370, sponsored by Shawnna Bolick (R-2), would ban cities from requiring businesses run by youth under 18 to be licensed or pay sales taxes if they make under $10,000 per year. While no one wants to stifle entrepreneurship for young people, this bill removes requirements for licensure, potentially opening the door to exposing kids to predatory practices or exploiting kids. It also cracks the door open to rolling back child labor laws, as is happening in multiple other states. The bill was transmitted to the Senate 4/24 and awaits their next work day (5/1) to be transmitted to the governor for her veto. 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

Public School Proud Weekly Virtual Phonebanks

Join us to connect with voters at our Public School Proud Phonebanks every Tuesday from 5:30-7:00pm – this is a great chance to start making a difference to elect a Public School Proud legislature this November! 

Next one: Tuesday, April 30th from 5:30 – 7:00 pm — 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!

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!

Paradise Valley Unified School District is hosting its seventh annual prom boutique! The event, sponsored by the Paradise Valley Education Association, allows all PVUSD students to have the prom of their dreams, with a wide variety of “dresses, suit coats, colognes, belts, clutches, tie clips, undershirts, jewelry and heels” for students to peruse. A senior from Shadow Mountain shared that “there’s a lot of expectation going to a boutique. But here, it’s very easygoing, and everyone’s very helpful.”

Congratulations to Sunnyside senior Audrey Jimenez for reaching the 50-kg Olympic Trials finals! Earlier this year, Audrey was the first female to win a boys wrestling state championship in the entire country — now, she has won the three matches needed to qualify for the best-of-three finals this weekend! Best of luck Audrey; we can’t wait to cheer for you in Paris this summer!

Biology students from Desert Sunrise High School got to experience the amazing micro-world of bacteria with a hands-on lab. Students collected samples from different locations around campus to place in an incubator and watch natural selection at work. Students were able to learn about both evolution and the environmental pressures that affect it.

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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