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Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 2nd General Session
Volume 6, Issue 14• Week of April 08, 2024

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Horne Slashes Funding for Low-Income Schools

In case anyone in this state is still wondering whether Supt. Horne supports public schools or students — his department is now actively withholding funding for low-income schools. 

😡 Title I Funding Cut. Arizona public school leaders are sounding the alarm as Horne’s ADE announced a sudden decision to cut Arizona’s Title I federal funds by a jaw-dropping 20%. Normally, the ADE would plan for a 10% reduction until the federal budget is finalized (and then would restore those cuts). As Save Our Schools Arizona’s communications manager Tyler Kowch stated, “In the past when there have been issues, the standard has been ADE withholds 10% at the most. Superintendent Horne is doing his own napkin math at his discretion. If 20% of Title 1 funding is withheld, some districts are going to be forced to make some heart-wrenching decisions.”

Any cuts to Title I will be exacerbated by the reality that COVID relief dollars are going away this year — meaning already underfunded school districts are scrambling to cover major losses in multiple buckets. 

📉 Students Suffer. Districts are now being forced to make next year’s budgeting decisions on major programs and staff positions, not knowing whether these critical student services will continue. Title I funds are typically used for tutoring, reading and math interventionists, field trips, career readiness programs, and other programs that directly benefit students. 

Cartwright Elementary School District in Phoenix has canceled its summer school programs. If the district’s Title I funds are cut by 20%, they will lose around $2 million. Washington Elementary School District, west of Phoenix, faces the same level of losses, as do most other districts around the state. 

The principal of Arredondo Elementary School in Tempe says that financial uncertainty is creating havoc for budgets — and is hurting kids: “As they continue to kick the can with these funds, that means that the money that is needed to help impact student achievement isn’t available early enough to make a difference… At schools, we try to protect kids from grown-up decisions. There’s just no way this cut won’t impact kids… Never in 15 years have I heard of ADE cutting 20% straight on a preliminary allocation. It’s absurd.”

Actions You Can Take

📧 Use our quick email tool to tell your lawmakers to vote NO on the current Prop 123 renewals moving in the Legislature and to work together for a bipartisan solution: bit.ly/Prop123Fix 

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

👍 Need a RTS account? Sign up here

Voucher Watch

Last week, Brahm Resnik interviewed Supt. Horne on Sunday Square Off about his rejection of basic, common-sense regulations of the ESA voucher program. 

Supt. Horne claims he’s been “denying luxurious items” for ESA voucher spending, saying these expenses must be “reasonable” and for a “valid educational expense.” However, multiple stories of fraud and waste have been uncovered over the past few weeks, and Horne has refused to enact a new ESA Voucher Handbook that would have cracked down on luxury expenses like waterpark admission, bounce houses, big screen TVs, musical instruments over $2000, footwear for sports and dance, and much more. As Brahm Resnik pointed out, “Here’s the deal… the draft handbook had dozens of newly unallowable expenses that will now be allowable…. Amazon Prime fees… assembly or installation fees, bedding, dining, footwear…” 

Horne attempted to pass off the handbook vote as a chance to give parents input, but as Resnik pointed out, it’s a “red herring” led by Horne’s former ESA Director Christine Accurso, who let DeVos-backed American Federation for Children edit the handbook last year, and led “Decline to Sign” efforts against Save Our Schools Arizona volunteers in 2022. 

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

As the Legislature Turns

👏 Might as well ask for a pony. Many of the bills we’ve been tracking all session are moving up to the governor’s desk. As expected, Gov. Hobbs has no intention to sign any conspiracy theories or culture-war nonsense into law. She vetoed 15 bills this past week, including one that would have created a state license plate to divert public dollars to a private out-of-state university. As her veto letter succinctly stated: “Establishing special plates that benefit out-of-state private educational institutions using public resources is not the best use of Arizona taxpayers’ money.” 

It’s a constant reminder that elections — and our involvement — are critical. We’re so grateful the governor has the backs of our public schools, educators and kids! More bills await her veto stamp this week; see “On the Governor’s Desk” below for more. 

🍿 Budget update. Toma, Petersen and Hobbs reportedly met on April 2 and 4 to begin the contentious process of negotiating a state budget. Toma told press the two sides are still “out of whack” with each other, disagreeing not just on how much to spend, but on how much money there is. New economic projections are expected to be released next week. 

📅 Republican legislative leaders say rank-and-file members have completed most of their business, so they are moving to a 1-day work week. This will allow lawmakers to campaign for the July 30 primary while still receiving per-diem pay. Only about 35 bills remain on SOSAZ’s legislative watch list, and many of those are highly contentious. Floor calendars for next Wednesday have not been released; we’ll keep you informed as bills continue to progress. 

Republican leadership is also saying they want to end the session within the next 4 weeks, including Prop 123 negotiations. Word is that Petersen and Toma are negotiating only within their own caucus, leading to worries that they are crafting a shortsighted plan designed to get through the Legislature but not earn voter approval. You can use our quick email tool to ask your lawmakers to oppose the current Prop 123 renewals moving in the Legislature and to work together for a bipartisan solution: bit.ly/Prop123Fix

Upcoming Events

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

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!

At Esperero Canyon Middle School in Catalina Foothills, the 6th grade class field trip to Sabino Canyon was full of wonder. Students learned how to navigate without a compass, tested and recorded the temperature of different surfaces, how to identify desert animals, painted watercolors, wrote poetry, and more.

6th graders from Garden Lakes Elementary in Pendergast joined students from West View High School in Tolleson from Leadership Day. This was an opportunity for the older students to mentor and empower the next generation of student leaders, as well as foster an amazing interconnected community.

Congratulations to Rebecca Bhasme and Loy Guzman for being chosen as finalists for the School Connect Champions of Educations Awards! Rebecca Bhasme has worked as a science teacher in the Willcox Unified School District for seven years, where she has led the charge for STEM education and a tree-planting campaign. She is up for the School Connect Hero Maker award. Loy Guzman is the superintendent, principal, and lead teacher for Apache Elementary School District. She is up for the School Connect Catalyst for Education award.

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. 

SB1007, sponsored by Jake Hoffman (R-15), would put Arizona public school teachers (but not teachers at ESA-funded private schools) behind bars for up to two years if they teach material that lawmakers consider too “sexually explicit.” It would also ban public libraries from exposing minors to any “sexually explicit materials.” This is effectively a book ban and would prevent Arizona’s students from getting a well-rounded education. State law already makes it a felony to show pornography to children. Hoffman introduced a similar bill last year, which failed to pass. OPPOSE.

SB1097, sponsored by Justine Wadsack (R-17), would make school board elections partisan, a move being pushed by national extremist organizations. Local school boards are our most democratic institutions, and should stay above party politics the same way judges are tasked to. The goal is not to remove all politics from governing, but to steer clear of conflict that keeps school boards from doing their job or forcing party politics into public education. Making school boards partisan turns them into just another venue for extremist conflict. A similar bill failed its very first committee hearing in 2022. OPPOSE.

SB1151, sponsored by Anthony Kern (R-27), permits Arizona schools to post copies or excerpts of the Ten Commandments, or read the material aloud to their students. Right now, all public schools are prohibited from including religious or partisan materials in instruction. Lawsuits over the obvious First Amendment violation will be directed at school districts, which will then have to defend themselves and foot the bill for that. OPPOSE. 

SB1182, sponsored by John Kavanagh (R-3), is a shower-only version of last year’s “bathroom bill” that would ban transgender youth 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 the harm from continued anti-trans rhetoric, this would open Arizona to a host of lawsuits at taxpayer expense. Gov. Hobbs vetoed last year’s bill. OPPOSE.

SB1369, sponsored by Shawnna Bolick (R-2), would require each school district and individual public school to post on its website information on students’ race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age that is meant for the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Schools would also have to complete a newly created survey from the Arizona Department of Education on bullying, fighting, harassment and other school safety issues, which ADE would post on their website. Public schools are already subject to many laws covering discrimination and bullying, making this an excessive overreach. Meanwhile, ESA voucher-funded schools have zero transparency and zero safety requirements. 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!

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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.

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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.

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