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Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 2nd General Session
Volume 6, Issue 6• Week of February 12, 2024

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Voucher Reform Now!

All session, ESA voucher reform bills have been collecting dust. However, we have some good news: a pair of bills to reform Arizona’s out-of-control voucher program will be heard next week in the Senate Education Committee.

👍 SB1353, sponsored by Senator Christine Marsh (D-4), would require the Arizona Department of Education to provide the legislature with an estimate of how much funding it requires for ESA vouchers in advance for the upcoming fiscal year. 

👍 SB1354, sponsored by Senator Christine Marsh (D-4), would require schools that accept ESA vouchers to notify parents of whether they provide special-education services for their students, and to honor students’ IEP and 504 plans unless the parents waive those rights in writing. 

These are small but important steps in the right direction. However, Sen. Mitzi Epstein’s critical SB1399, which includes robust voucher reform, has not yet been placed on an agenda. Neither have any of the other ESA voucher reform bills designed to provide real financial transparency, significant taxpayer accountability, and desperately needed private school safety (listed in the grid below). 

If committee chairs do not hear these bills by next week, they are functionally dead and can only be resuscitated during chaotic budget negotiations. It’s worth pointing out that last year’s budget brought no meaningful reform, so public pressure is needed NOW. 

This week, all bills must pass through their originating chamber (House or Senate) or be added to an Appropriations committee, which has an extra week to hear bills. This is a long shot, as leadership (Petersen and Toma) would have to reassign bills to Appropriations, and they’ve been unwilling to move on ESA voucher reform. Again, they need to hear from us. 

Arizona voters of all political stripes are demanding voucher reforms to increase accountability and transparency, and to ensure Arizona children are safe. Yet Republicans (who hold the slimmest possible majority in both the House and the Senate) have dug in their heels and refuse to hear these common-sense proposals. 

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again — political pressure is the only thing that moves bills at the Capitol. So, lawmakers need to hear from YOU! 

If you have 3 minutes: Please use our updated email tool to reach out to lawmakers today, and every day this week: bit.ly/VoucherReform 

If you have 5-15 minutes: Email or call Senate Education Committee members to urge them to vote YES on Senator Marsh’s ESA voucher accountability bills. 

Ken Bennett (R-1) – Chair

Justine Wadsack (R-17) – Vice Chair

Shawnna Bolick (R-2)

Sine Kerr (R-25)

Sally Ann Gonzales (D-20)

Christine Marsh* (D-4) – Ranking 

Catherine Miranda (D-11)

602-926-5874

602-926-3106

602-926-3314

602-926-5955

602-926-3278

602-926-3184

602-926-3413

Email all by copying & pasting this list: kbennett@azleg.gov, jwadsack@azleg.gov, sbolick@azleg.gov, skerr@azleg.govsgonzales@azleg.govcmarsh@azleg.gov, cmiranda@azleg.gov

* As bill sponsor, Sen. Marsh is certain to vote Yes, but a call to thank her would be wonderful!

If you have 10 more minutes: Call this list below and ask them to hear ESA voucher reform bills that increase accountability and transparency, and improve child safety. The only leaders who can move these bills onto agendas are the Senate President, Speaker of the House, and Chairs of the Appropriations committees.

Warren Petersen (R-14), Senate Pres.

Ben Toma (R-22), Speaker of the House

John Kavanagh (R-3)

David Livingston (R-28)

602-926–4136

602-926–3298

602-926-5170

602-926-4178

Here are the ESA voucher reform bills that are still awaiting a hearing:

SB1351, Miranda (D-11), raises qualifications for voucher-funded teachers. 

SB1352, Miranda (D-11) and HB2807, Seaman (D-16), require the ADE to notify parents in writing of the legal rights they surrender when accepting an ESA voucher. 

SB1355, Marsh (D-4) and HB2810, Pawlik (D-13), allow ESA voucher funds to pay for special education evaluations. 

SB1356, Marsh (D-4), requires voucher-funded teachers to undergo background checks.

SB1396, Epstein (D-12), institutes anti-bullying policies for voucher-funded schools.

SB1399, Epstein (D-12), makes many accountability and transparency changes to Arizona’s ESA voucher program, including requiring fingerprinting, limiting luxury purchases, notifying parents of their legal rights, requiring voucher schools to report performance and financial metrics, and requiring ADE to budget appropriately for the program. 

SB1487, Diaz (D-12), would direct the Auditor General to conduct annual financial and compliance audits on the ESA voucher program and establish a financial transparency portal for voucher schools. 

HB2462, Pawlik (D-13), requires schools that accept ESA vouchers to notify parents of whether they provide special-education services for their students, and sets up a complaint process with the State Board so schools are held accountable to parents.

HB2478, Terech (D-4), would require the Auditor General to perform an annual financial audit on schools that accept ESA vouchers. 

HB2553, Seaman (D-16), would lower the administrative fee for STO vouchers from 10% to 5%. 

HB2562, Gutierrez (D-18), and SB1314, Miranda (D-11), would establish a sunset date for the ESA program like that of every other statewide program.

HB2563, Gutierrez (D-18), and SB1485, Diaz (D-22), would prohibit purchases of luxury items using the ESA voucher program and would require increased oversight of high-dollar items. 

HB2624, Sandoval (D-23), requires financial record-keeping and reporting, performance audits, and letter grades of voucher-funded schools. 

HB2626, Crews (D-26), would ban voucher-funded schools from requiring families to disclose their ESA enrollment status or funding amount as a condition of enrollment. 

HB2774, Terech (D-4), would require those who take funding from ESA vouchers and have unsupervised access to children to undergo background checks.

HB2795, Gutierrez (D-18), would require voucher-funded teachers to have a bachelor’s degree, 3+ years of teaching experience, or subject matter expertise. 

HB2810, Pawlik (D-13), would allow ESA voucher funds to pay for special education evaluations.

Actions You Can Take

🛑 Use Request to Speak on the following bills:

👎 NO on SB1009 👎 NO on SB1116

👎 NO on SB1122 👎 NO on SB1151

👎 NO on SB1261 👍 YES on SB1353

👍 YES on SB1354 👍 YES on SB1398

👎 NO on SB1459 👎 NO on SB1466

👎 NO on SB1472 👍 YES on SB1488

👍 YES on SB1572 👍 YES on SB1600

👎 NO on SB1615👎 NO on SB1628 

👎 NO on SB1668 👍 YES on SB1709 

👎 NO on SCR1019 👎 NO on SCR1040 

👎 NO on SCR1041 👎 NO on HB2271

👎 NO on HB2481 👎 NO on HB2484

👎 NO on HB2675 👎 NO on HCR2052

👎 NO on HCR2056

These bills will be heard in Rules, which gives another chance to RTS:

👎 NO on SB1166 👎 NO on SB1182

👎 NO on SB1187 👎 NO on SB1195

👎 NO on SB1286 👎 NO on SB1369

👎 NO on SB1370 👍 YES on SB1455

👍 YES on SB1465 👎 NO on SB1495

👎 NO on SB1583 👎 NO on SCR1013

👎 NO on SCR1015 👎 NO on SCR1020

👎 NO on SCR1027 👎 NO on SCR1034

👎 NO on HB2501 👎 NO on HB2719

💻 Email your lawmakers TODAY to let them know that you support Governor Hobbs’ plan to reform out-of-control ESA vouchers! If you’ve done it already, please do it again. Our easy-to-use email tool makes it turnkey to make your voice heard: bit.ly/VoucherReform

💻 Email your member of Congress to tell them NO to federal vouchers by using this easy tool from our friends at the Network for Public Education: actionnetwork.org/letters/tell-congress-no-federal-vouchers-not-now-not-ever

Need a RTS account? Sign up here. Want a refresher? Our friends at Civic Engagement Beyond Voting are hosting RTS trainings on Mondays at 6:30 PM beginning January 8. Sign up here!

Upcoming Events

*NEW* Check out SOSAZ’s updated Upcoming Events page to find all of our online and in-person events near you!

Statewide Volunteer Huddle w/ Rep. Oscar De Los Santos

Sunday, February 18 at 6:00 pm – Virtual – Register HERE

The Privatization Playbook

Across the country, well-funded special interests are working to dismantle public education, in a coordinated attempt to privatize our nation’s most cherished and democratic institutions — our public schools. 

Watch our newest video here: bit.ly/PrivatizationPlaybook

Step 1: Discredit

Have you noticed an all-out attack on public schools and teachers across the United States? First it was mask wars, then it was the boogeymen of “Critical Race Theory” and “Social Emotional Learning.” They even go so far as to call teachers “groomers” and accuse them of “indoctrination” — but really, this whole time, they’re working to discredit public schools to usher in vouchers. 

Step 2: Defund

Even though the vast majority of folks who live in red states support and rely on their local public schools, billionaire special interests have pressured politicians (and donated heavily to their campaigns) to make dramatic cuts to public education. These states have the lowest teacher salaries in the country, causing massive teacher shortages. Children are deprived of quality learning and extracurriculars, class sizes balloon, and facilities and buses are in disrepair. This is all by design. 

Step 3: Dismantle

Once public schools have been discredited and defunded, these special interests push private school vouchers as a solution under the false promise of “school choice.” But when the bad actors who created the problem are pushing the solution, you can be sure they have an agenda. Dark money groups funded by Betsy DeVos, the Kochs, and the Waltons (among others) share a purpose — to dismantle public education. And they will stop at nothing to achieve this goal. 

You might ask, “Why would anyone want to dismantle our public schools?” Some organizations view school privatization as a way to profit off of our kids, others want to push religious and political extremism. Some simply believe the government has no role in assuring the public good. All are dangerous movements that threaten American democracy — and both are using school vouchers to achieve their insidious goals. 

At Save Our Schools Arizona, we are fighting back against this dangerous agenda. Our organization began in 2017 to defeat universal vouchers, but when we started pulling the threads we realized the issue was larger than we could have imagined. We are now joined by grassroots groups like ours across the country that are doing the critical work to educate Americans of the dangers of school vouchers — before it’s too late. Join us!

K-12 Spotlight

This week, Paradise Valley Unified School District made the heart-wrenching decision to close three local schools at the end of this year. While there was plenty of talk about why the schools are closing, here’s the reality:

The only reason PVUSD is being forced to consider closing schools is the total lack of adequate public school funding from the Arizona state legislature. Our state’s per-pupil funding for public education is second last in the nation — $5.5 billion annually behind the national average. 

Our kids deserve better, and our lawmakers have the power to do better. According to the Arizona Department of Education’s quarterly ESA voucher report, as of September 30th, 2023, Paradise Valley Unified District had 2,848 voucher recipients living within district boundaries. These students represent about $28 million in state funding — more than enough to keep all three schools open. Across the state, more than 78% of voucher recipients never went to public school. That means they were already attending a private school on their own dime, and incur a totally new, massive cost to the state budget. 

Our lawmakers at the state legislature have the power to stop giving taxpayer-funded vouchers to the wealthy and to fully fund our public schools. And if they don’t, we have the power to replace them. 

92% of Arizona families choose public school. We need to stand up and tell lawmakers not to take away our choice: well-resourced public schools that are accessible in every neighborhood.

Bills in Committee

SB1009, sponsored by Jake Hoffman (R-15), would ban candidates, volunteers and nonprofits from registering people to vote by mail. Scheduled for Senate Elections Committee, Monday. OPPOSE. 

SB1116, sponsored by Ken Bennett (R-1), would make it illegal for anyone to receive money or other compensation for registering people to vote based on the number of registrations they collect. This wrongly assumes nefarious activities and penalizes voter registration efforts. Bennett introduced a similar bill last year, which Gov. Hobbs vetoed. Scheduled for Senate Elections Committee, Monday. OPPOSE. 

SB1122, sponsored by Wendy Rogers (R-7), would allow anyone to file a complaint with ADE alleging that a school district has violated a state law that requires the displaying of the US flag, the US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights in each classroom. Violations would incur an unreasonable civil penalty up to $1000. While 99.9% of classrooms are in compliance with the law, mistakes can happen. This year alone, we’ve heard reports of teachers’ rooms flooding and classrooms being moved midweek. Teachers are already overregulated and overburdened with punitive measures like these, which is driving many amazing educators out of classrooms. Scheduled for Senate Education Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE. 

SB1151, sponsored by Anthony Kern (R-27), permits a teacher or administrator in any school in the state to read or post in any school building copies or excerpts of the Ten Commandments, pursuant to applicable state laws. Right now, all public schools are prohibited from including religious or partisan materials. Scheduled for Senate Education Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE. 

SB1261, sponsored by Wendy Rogers (R-7), would remove a school district’s ability to hold all-mail elections, such as bonds and overrides. This would drive down voter participation in these important elections, jeopardizing their chance of successScheduled for Senate Elections Committee, Monday. OPPOSE. 

SB1353, sponsored by Christine Marsh (D-4), would require the Arizona Department of Education to provide the legislature with an estimate of how much funding it requires for ESA vouchers in advance for the upcoming fiscal year. Responsible budgeting is necessary for this program, which is set to siphon $950 million away from local public schools this year. Scheduled for Senate Education Committee, Wednesday. SUPPORT.

SB1354, sponsored by Christine Marsh (D-4), would require schools that accept ESA vouchers to notify parents of whether they provide special-education services for their students, and to honor students’ IEP and 504 plans unless the parents specifically waive those rights in writing. This provides needed protections for children with special needs in the ESA voucher program. Scheduled for Senate Education Committee, Wednesday. SUPPORT.

SB1398, sponsored by Mitzi Epstein (D-12), would require public district and charter schools that serve students in grades 6-12 to make menstrual hygiene products available free of charge in all women’s and gender-neutral restrooms in the school, and appropriates $2.5 million for the program. Many nurses and teachers pay for them out of their own pockets. Epstein introduced the same bill last year, which was eventually wrapped into the state budget, but expires on June 30. Scheduled for Senate Education Committee, Wednesday. Double assigned to Appropriations. SUPPORT.

SB1459, sponsored by John Kavanagh (R-3), would require district and charter schools to report details on student discipline to ADE, and states ADE’s belief that “the school has no reasonable justification for implementing disciplinary actions in fewer than 75%” of cases per year.” If schools don’t meet this bar, ADE can arbitrarily demote the school’s letter grade. Supt.Horne holds polarized positions on discipline and is pushing the change on the grounds that “discipline has evaporated and classrooms have become anarchic.” Scheduled for Senate Education Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE. 

SB1466, sponsored by Ken Bennett (R-1), would reinstate high-stakes testing to graduate from high school, with no exemptions for students with many forms of special needs who struggle to pass standardized tests. In 2015, when Republican lawmakers overwhelmingly chose to repeal the requirement, they stated that “the test has no meaning behind it” and that “placing all the responsibility and stress on individual students for the success of our educational system is unfair.” Other states that have repealed their high-stakes test requirements caution against conflating a measure of learning with “a meaningless hoop to jump through.” We have half a mind to pass out copies of the ACT math sample questions to lawmakers this week.  Bennett introduced a similar bill last year. Scheduled for Senate Education Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE. 

SB1472, sponsored by Anthony Kern (R-27), would ban the state, including public schools, from requiring “diversity, equity, and inclusion programs” for its employees, spending public funds on such programs, or setting policies to influence the composition of its workforce on the basis of race, sex, or color. Any employee required to participate could sue. Diversity, equity and inclusion is a philosophy designed to harness the differences, talents and unique qualities of all individuals; this bill pretends our differences don’t exist. Similar to a bill from last year, which failed to pass, and to SB1005, Hoffman (R-15), which has already passed the Senate. Scheduled for Senate Government Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE. 

SB1488, sponsored by Eva Diaz (D-22), would increase state funding for kindergarten students by instituting a Group B weight of 1.352. Kindergarteners only get half-day funding right now; schools are forced to cobble together the difference. Scheduled for Senate Education Committee, Wednesday. SUPPORT.

SB1572, sponsored by TJ Shope (R-16), adds dual enrollment programs to the teacher professional development program, and repeals the pay-for-performance incentive bonus passed last year for teachers whose students pass dual enrollment courses (which allow them to earn credit for college classes). Only about half of Arizona schools offer dual enrollment; low-income and rural students have the biggest access gaps. This bill would help narrow that gap. Scheduled for Senate Education Committee, Wednesday. SUPPORT. 

SB1600, sponsored by Ken Bennett (R-1), would require district and charter schools to train each of their school resource officers how to recognize and effectively interact with children with disabilities. Studies show that students with disabilities are among those most often negatively impacted by school policing; this best practice would help address that. Scheduled for Senate Education Committee, Wednesday. SUPPORT. 

SB1615, sponsored by Justine Wadsack (R-17), changes the legislative intent of Title 25 (which governs Marital and Domestic Relations) to add “protecting and promoting the parents’ bill of rights.” Scheduled for Senate Judiciary Committee, Thursday. OPPOSE.

SB1628, sponsored by Sine Kerr (R-25), would remove any reference to gender in Arizona law and replace it with “sex,” defined as the male or female label assigned to someone at birth. This narrow and inflexible definition of biological sex would eliminate any legal recognition of transgender people. Not only is there no evidence that transgender-friendly policies endanger anyone, transgender people face a much higher risk of violence, a risk that is elevated under restrictive policies like these. The law could also negatively impact schools’ funding sources. Title IX forbids schools from engaging in sex-based discrimination, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity; under this bill, schools could be put in the impossible position of violating state law or losing federal funding. Scheduled for Senate Health & Human Services Committee, Tuesday. OPPOSE. 

SB1668, sponsored by David Gowan (R-19), takes administration of school elections, including bond and override elections, away from the county school superintendent and gives it to the county recorder starting 12/31/24. Scheduled for Senate Elections Committee, Monday. OPPOSE. 

SB1709, sponsored by Sally Ann Gonzales (D-20), would institute a group B weight of 0.021 for tribal students, defined as “a pupil who identifies as American Indian or Alaskan native in the pupil’s enrollment information.” This would achieve additional funding for schools serving tribal students across the state, helping schools address their many needs. Scheduled for Senate Education Committee, Wednesday. SUPPORT. 

SCR1019, sponsored by Anthony Kern (R-27) and HCR2056, sponsored by Steve Montenegro (R-29), ask voters to enshrine racism in the state Constitution. These culture-war-driven measures would prevent the state from giving minority-owned businesses any preference in state contracts, keep school districts from specifically hiring black or brown teachers in an effort to increase representation, block teachers from discussing inclusion and equity issues that have arisen despite the 14th Amendment, and ban certain content from being taught in schools. This would negatively impact student learning, as well as teacher retention and recruitment. Because these measures would go directly to voters, Gov. Hobbs cannot veto them. Scheduled for Senate and House Government Committees respectively, Wednesday. OPPOSE. 

SCR1040, sponsored by JD Mesnard (R-13), is a ballot measure that would permit the Arizona State School Fund (the state land trust from which Prop 123 monies flow) to provide guaranteed financing for district and charter schools, including bonds, overrides and capital financing. This could put the land trust’s current ability to fund schools at risk; it also clutters the ballot, making it more likely any potential Prop 123 extension will fail due to voter confusion. Because it would go directly to voters, Gov. Hobbs cannot veto it. Scheduled for Senate Education Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE. 

SCR1041, sponsored by JD Mesnard (R-13), would ask voters to change the state constitution to allow anyone to sue to knock a citizen initiative off the ballot on grounds that it is not constitutional. This constitutes yet another attempt to stifle citizens’ initiatives. Because it would go directly to voters, Gov. Hobbs cannot veto it. Scheduled for Senate Elections Committee, Monday. OPPOSE. 

HB2271, sponsored by Barbara Parker (R-10), would create a special vehicle license plate for Religious Educational Institutions (many of which are now being propped up by taxpayer funds via vouchers). Arizona currently has 101 special plates, some of which raise money for political groups, such as the hate group Alliance Defending Freedom and the anti-abortion Arizona Life Coalition. Scheduled for House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE. 

HB2481, sponsored by Barbara Parker (R-10), would strip the requirement that the state legislature take public comment before passing laws. This severely limits civic engagement at the legislature and is entirely undemocratic. Scheduled for House Government Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE. 

HB2484, sponsored by Barbara Parker (R-10), would require district and charter schools (but not voucher-funded private schools) to prominently post on their websites whether they have a registered nurse. If they don’t, they must either post the health credentials of each person who provides health care services to students, or post that uncredentialed individuals provide health care. Scheduled for House Education Committee, Tuesday. OPPOSE. 

HB2675, sponsored by Beverly Pingerelli (R-28), would replace letter grades for district and charter schools with a performance classification: meet, exceed, or fail to meet expectations. If schools are given only 3 classifications, their performance will look worse. Currently only 1% of public schools are rated F, and 93% are rated A, B or C. Letter grades are not ideal, but this could turn into a wider swath of schools “Not Meeting Expectations” without any clear idea of what exactly that means. Not to mention, private schools receiving taxpayer funds are not subject to any of these criteria. Scheduled for House Education Committee, Tuesday. OPPOSE. 

HCR2052, sponsored by Cory McGarr (R-17), would insert the legislature into the agency rulemaking process by requiring the legislature give final approval for agency rules via a majority vote. This absurd overreach would prevent our state agencies from effectively doing their jobs. Because it would go directly to voters, Gov. Hobbs cannot veto it. Scheduled for House Regulatory Affairs Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE. 

Bills in Rules Committees

After being heard in Rules Committees, these bills will go through caucus meetings (which usually happen on Tuesdays) before being brought to a full vote. 

SB1166, sponsored by John Kavanagh (R-3), would force schools to notify parents within five days if their minor child asked a teacher to use a preferred pronoun or name different from their biological sex or given name. It would also allow teachers to refuse to comply with that request, effectively greenlighting the misgendering of students. The sponsor says he’s compromised to try to get it past Gov. Hobbs’ veto stamp by making this year’s bill more “permissive” than last year’s, which required teachers to obtain written parental permission before they could respect a student’s identity. He dismissed the idea that requiring disclosure of a student’s gender identity would effectively amount to a ban for students with hostile families, saying that’s a matter for Child Protective Services to handle. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.

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. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.

SB1187, sponsored by John Kavanagh (R-3), would require public schools in a district that has a bond or override election on the ballot to be polling places “only if other nearby appropriate government buildings are unavailable,” creating potential issues relating to child safety and available space — and voiding current exemptions. No external entity knows better for local schools than their own staff; state lawmakers should not be mandating this decision for them. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.

SB1195, sponsored by Anthony Kern (R-27), would ask voters to ban Arizona, its cities and counties, and its state universities and community colleges from spending public funds to promote a laundry list of culture-war conspiracy theories. These include reducing meat or dairy consumption or production, eating insects, walking or biking more, taking public transit, reducing air travel, limiting the number of articles of clothing a person may buy or own, recycling water for drinking, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, limiting the increase of global temperature, producing or adopting a climate action plan, replacing private ownership, furthering Marxist ideologies, or implementing mass surveillance systems to monitor motor vehicle travel. The “Marxist ideologies” line alone could usher in a McCarthy-level witch hunt in public schools. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.

SB1286, sponsored by Jake Hoffman, would require all district schools to close on primary and general election days, and district schools (but not charter or ESA voucher-funded schools) to offer their gymnasiums as polling places. Teachers would be required to attend inservice training and banned from taking a vacation day, presumably to keep them from working the polls. Arizona and the nation are already struggling to find enough election workers; it makes no sense to legislate a ban on teachers doing their patriotic duty — to say nothing of the disruption this would cause to families. Similar to a bill from last year that Gov. Hobbs vetoed. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. 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, bills that would expand these protections to kids at ESA voucher-funded schools are going unheard. Use your comments to mention that! Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.

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. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.

SB1455, sponsored by Ken Bennett (R-1), extends the deadline for the public school tax credit to be used for broader purposes, including capital items, school meal programs, consumable health care supplies, playground equipment and shade structures. The current deadline is June 30, 2024. Having the flexibility to determine what needs attention most will benefit our local schools. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. SUPPORT.

SB1465, sponsored by Ken Bennett (R-1), would make the required literacy endorsement for certificated K-5 teachers (passed in 2021) voluntary. Teachers must do all of this on their own time and with their own money, meaning these onerous requirements are encouraging many educators to leave the classroom. Making it voluntary would level the playing field a bit between highly regulated certificated teachers and other, less regulated types of educators. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. SUPPORT.

SB1495, sponsored by JD Mesnard (R-13), would more than double certain business property tax exemptions, from $207,366 to $500,000 for each taxpayer. With a projected two-year deficit of more than $1.7 billion, now is not the time to give away even more state revenue via tax cuts! Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.

SB1583, sponsored by Justine Wadsack (R-17), would require each public school in Arizona to give parents an overview of the ESA voucher program, including award amount and approved expenses; a list of charter schools located a “reasonable distance” from the school; and several pages of information on “Arizona’s school choice options” for the parent to sign. The school would be required to keep a copy of the signed disclosure in the student’s file and to assist any parent who wants to switch schools after reading the pamphlet. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.

SCR1013, sponsored by John Kavanagh (R-3), would ask voters to ban trans kids from using the school bathrooms, changing facilities and “sleeping quarters” that align with their gender identities. It would create a situation where trans kids couldn’t use any facilities at all without undue scrutiny of their bodies, calling that a “reasonable accommodation.” Anyone who “encounters” a trans person in a bathroom 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. Gov. Hobbs vetoed a similar bill last year; this referral would go directly to the voters, so she can’t veto it. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.

SCR1015, sponsored by Anthony Kern (R-27), would ask voters to ban Arizona, its cities and counties, and its state universities and community colleges (but not voucher-funded schools or the ADE’s new PragerU partnership) from spending public funds to promote a laundry list of culture-war conspiracy theories. These include reducing meat or dairy consumption or production, eating insects, walking or biking more, taking public transit, reducing air travel, limiting the number of articles of clothing a person may buy or own, recycling water for drinking, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, limiting the increase of global temperature, producing or adopting a climate action plan, replacing private ownership, or implementing mass surveillance systems to monitor motor vehicle travel. As we’ve said before, the legislature should not be setting curriculum. See mirror bill HCR2040, sponsored by Austin Smith (R-29). Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.

SCR1020, sponsored by JD Mesnard (R-13), would ask voters to amend the state Constitution to automatically extend the previous year’s state budget if lawmakers don’t pass one in time. This would remove the only real motivation for lawmakers to work together and avoid shutting down our state. Lawmakers’ only constitutional responsibility is to pass a budget by the start of the new fiscal year (no later than June 30). The same bill failed to pass last year. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.

SCR1027, sponsored by JD Mesnard (R-13), would ask voters to put a new version of Prop 123 in the state Constitution that restricts funds to “eligible teachers” only, rather than the many and varied needs of public schools as the expiring version of Prop 123 allows. Individual schools are best suited to determine their own needs, and don’t need a top-down mandate. We encourage Republican lawmakers to work with the governor and their Democratic colleagues to craft a more flexible solution that has bipartisan support and will be roundly approved by voters. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.

SCR1034, sponsored by Jake Hoffman (R-15), would ask voters to set the actual salary schedule for Prop 123. Normally the legislature does this internally in case anything needs changing, but sending it to voters makes it impossible to tweak later. It directs funds to classroom teachers only, expecting the strapped general fund (which is currently running a $1.7 billion two-year deficit) to somehow backfill the current $257 million for general school funding. It bars district and charter schools from reducing teacher salaries below the FY2024-25 amount, even if the prop fails to direct the necessary funds to schools. This inflexible proposal will force districts to cut programs, slash resources, close schools and lay off teachers. It restricts funds to only certain types of teachers, which Judy Schwiebert (D-2) said is like buying a new transmission for a car but not replacing its four flat tires. And it puts two measures on the ballot in an already crowded year, which would both need to pass to be functional. We encourage Republican lawmakers to work with the governor and their Democratic colleagues to craft a more flexible solution that has bipartisan support and will be roundly approved by voters. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.

HB2501, sponsored by Leo Biasiucci (R-30), would form a process to remove a community college district from a county — in essence, removing Arizona Western College from La Paz County. This would affect more than 60 students at Parker High School who are taking a dual enrollment course or concurrent course through AWC, not to mention the CNA program, medical assisting program, and fire sciences offered through WAVE CTED. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.

HB2719, sponsored by Michael Carbone (R-25), would require school bond and override measures to have 60%+ approval from eligible voters — not just voters who turn out — in order to pass. In effect, this measure would stop school districts from ever passing desperately needed bonds or overrides again. The measure also applies to cities, counties, cities and community college districts. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. 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! 

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!

Anyone interested in some fresh broccoli? Students in Ms. Ogram’s Agriculture class in the Crane School District held their first two Farmers Markets this month! Students harvested and sold all of the produce. If you are in the Yuma area, make sure to check out Gary A. Knox Elementary on Feb 28th for their next Farmer’s Market — you can purchase a bag of fresh produce for $10, with all proceeds going back into the program.

Happy Year of the Wood Dragon! In Deer Valley, Gavilan Peak Elementary School celebrated the Lunar New Year and welcomed the Year of the Dragon.

Congratulations to Flagstaff freshman Jai from Coconino High School for winning the prestigious 2023 Congressional App Challenge for Arizona's 2nd Congressional District with his app “Notes2.” Jai’s app will be featured on House.gov for the next year, and he will travel to Congress in April for “#HouseofCode!” Way to go, Jai!

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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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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