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Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 2nd General Session
Volume 6, Issue 8• Week of February 26, 2024

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It’s Public Schools Week!

That’s right — it’s our favorite week of the year: National Public Schools Week. The last week of February is a chance to celebrate the incredible students, teachers, staff, administrators, coaches, bus drivers, custodians, counselors, librarians and nurses who make Arizona’s public schools so incredible each and every day. 

[Spoiler alert!] This year, we’re taking it to a whole new level: 

🌇 The Governor’s Executive Tower will be lit red for Public Schools Week!

📜 Governor Hobbs will issue a proclamation honoring this special week 

🔊 Every day, SOSAZ will share great stories and pictures highlighting why we are #PublicSchoolProud

🏀 Several lucky educators will score tickets to see the Phoenix Suns take on the Houston Rockets on Thurs, Feb. 29th! (Nominate an educator here by 11:59 PM on 2/25)

What can you do to celebrate? This year, we have a fun Tic-Tac-Toe board to offer up some suggestions about how you can support local public schools. From dropping off yummy treats for educators to calling your lawmakers and asking them to support public schools, there will be ample opportunity to plug in and be part of the celebration. Thank you! 

By reading today’s report, you’ve already started! Here are some quick ways to keep filling in your board: 

  1. Change your profile picture on social media
  2. Email your lawmakers urging them to reform and rein in runaway ESA vouchers: bit.ly/VoucherReform
  3. Email your lawmakers urging them to create a bipartisan Prop123 renewal that works for Arizona: bit.ly/Prop123Fix

Maricopa Action Summit

**NEW** We’ve heard your calls and we can finally announce: the Maricopa Action Summit is happening!!! Join SOSAZ and many incredible partner organizations on Saturday, April 6, 2024 for a FREE and fun-filled day to grow your advocacy skills, make connections, and hear from incredible speakers!

Maricopa Action Summit

Saturday, April 6, 2024 – 8:00am-4:00pm – Tempe High School

REGISTER HERE

Actions You Can Take

🛑 Use Request to Speak on the following bills:

☎️ Call your representatives in the House and ask them to oppose SCR1020. The legislature must not clutter the ballot with measures that would harm our public schools. Contact information is here.

📧 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 too to urge your lawmakers to reform and rein in out-of-control ESA vouchers! bit.ly/VoucherReform

👍 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!

Prop 123 Update

And then there were three: As of this week, there are now three (!) conflicting proposals for renewing Prop 123, which expires in 2025 and currently funnels over $400 million into Arizona classrooms each year. 

In the House Appropriations Committee last Monday, David Livingston (R-28) sponsored an amendment to HCR2047 to reduce the distribution from 6.9% to 5.5%, equating a 20% cut in proposed dollars for K-12 schools. The amendment passed along party lines, with only Republicans in support. This creates a third Prop 123 plan — and reveals a schism between House and Senate Republicans. 

The sponsor of the Senate Republican plan, JD Mesnard (R-13), says he continues to support a 6.9% distribution because “sticking with what worked for the last 10 years is the right way forward.” However, Livingston said he would not support any Prop 123 referral unless the funding was reduced. 

Republican lawmakers do not need Gov. Hobbs’ support to put a Prop 123 referral on the ballot; if all Republicans vote for a measure, it will go directly to the November 2024 ballot. But with all Democrats supporting Gov. Hobbs’ plan, and Republicans holding the slimmest 1-vote majority in each chamber, this schism between key Republicans means opportunity for negotiation — and, hopefully, a bipartisan compromise that is workable for public schools and gives Arizona’s 1 million public school kids what they need for success. 

In committee, Livingston also said the Prop 123 plan would be part of eventual budget negotiations. This means more time to craft that compromise. If nothing goes to the ballot this year, Prop 123 will expire in June 2025. 

Arizona schools are already in crisis; our kids are counting on our leaders to reach a deal that works for educators and students. Use our quick email tool to tell your lawmakers to work together for a bipartisan solution: bit.ly/Prop123Fix

As the Legislature Turns

Legislation at Breakneck Speed: This past week saw intensely long floor calendars, with Republican leadership in each chamber scheduling marathon voting sessions on literally hundreds of bills. When each individual bill receives just moments of discussion, it’s pretty easy to argue these policies aren’t receiving the attention a potential law should get. The same pattern is scheduled for Monday. 

Crossover Bills: After bills are voted on by their full chamber of origin (House bills in the House, Senate bills in the Senate), they move to the other chamber for consideration. This week’s committee agendas mostly feature bills that have already made it through their chamber of origin and are now being heard in crossover committees. This point marks your last opportunity to weigh in on a bill using Request to Speak, an opportunity that is especially important this year with so many hyperpolarized, radicalized bills moving. Your feedback using RTS helps to demonstrate the public’s distaste for these bills and backs Gov. Hobbs in her decision to issue vetoes. 

Lawmakers Gone Wild, or Just Gone? Did someone say spring break? 17 Arizona House representatives, led by Speaker Ben Toma, plan to visit Israel next month, shutting down the House floor for a full week (March 5-11). The Arizona Agenda first broke the story, observing wryly, “it’s pretty unheard of for (lawmakers) to dip out mid-year, especially with a looming budget shortfall and so much left on the legislative agendas.” The speaker, the majority leader and five committee chairs will all be going on the all-expenses-paid international trip courtesy of Israel advocacy organization Itrek, so it’s safe to say not much will get done here at home that week. 

Budget Season: At some point, lawmakers will run out of bills to consider and will have to start the difficult work of negotiating a bipartisan budget that cuts the $1.7 billion in spending necessary to balance Arizona’s books. Meetings between Gov. Katie Hobbs and Republican legislative leadership (House Speaker Ben Toma and Senate President Warren Petersen) are scheduled to begin this week. We’re grateful for Gov. Hobbs’ promise not to cut any funding from Arizona’s desperately underfunded K-12 public schools, and urge her to hold firm in demanding that accountability be added to Arizona’s out-of-control universal ESA voucher program. This is a good time to make that ask with a quick email to your lawmakers: bit.ly/VoucherReform. Lawmakers and the governor have until midnight on June 30 to reach agreement and pass a budget.

K-12 Roundup

While this is a week to celebrate our amazing public schools, we must acknowledge the difficult conditions our state legislature has created for local district schools. There’s sad news out of Mesa Public Schools this week as the district announced they will cut 385 positions for the next school year to fill a $19 million hole caused by the relentless tax dollar drain of universal ESA vouchers, the end of COVID-19 relief dollars, and woefully inadequate funding from the state legislature.

This isn’t just happening in Mesa — from Flagstaff to Paradise Valley, districts feel the impacts of decades of inadequate funding and the new drain of universal ESA vouchers. And it’s no coincidence — the same people pushing ESA vouchers have been involved with efforts to discredit our schools and reduce state funding. It’s all part of the Privatization Playbook — read our latest blog for more at bit.ly/VoucherPlaybook. 

Voucher Watch

This week, the Learning Policy Institute, an independent nonprofit that publishes research on education policy,  published a sweeping report on the impacts and cost of Arizona’s Universal ESA voucher expansion. Here is what they found:

  • Over 70% of universal ESA voucher recipients have no public school history — and represent an entirely new cost to the state.
  • While the roughly 100,000 English Language Learners in Arizona make up 9.2% of public school students, only 188 receive an ESA voucher — just 0.6% of the voucher program. 
  • Despite representing only 2.4% of Arizona’s school-aged children at the end of the last school year, the ESA voucher program skyrocketed to a whopping $587.5 million, or 8.8% of the $6.7 billion Arizona spent per pupil on public education last year.  

Click here to read the full report.

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!

Feb 26 Weekly Ed Report Web

Chandler Unified is celebrating Black History Month across its campuses! At Navarrete Elementary School, 5th graders had the opportunity to meet and be inspired by Dr. Na Tosha Gatson, one of the top-leading neuro-oncologists in Arizona and one of only two Black women neuro-oncologists in the country.

Feb 26 Weekly Ed Report Web

Congratulations to Tucson’s Sunnyside High School’s Blue Devils wrestling team for their seventh straight boys’ team state championship! Eight Blue Devils won individual state championships, including senior Audrey Jimenez, the first girl in Arizona’s history to win a state wrestling title against boys, capturing the Division I title at 106 pounds. Audrey had to appeal to the AIA in order to compete against boys — and certainly proved she was more than up to the competition!

Feb 26 Weekly Ed Report Web

Ready for the future — in Phoenix Union, Carl Hayden High School hosted a job fair with students from across the entire district. The event featured over 20 different employers, some of whom even offered free services like haircuts and manicures to students!

Feb 26 Weekly Ed Report Web

Congratulations to the Oro Grande Classical Academy Mighty Minions Robotics team from Lake Havasu Unified, which placed first place at this year's regional robotics competition with their art therapy machine. Now, for the second year in a row, the team will advance to an international competition! The team also won a “‘core values’ award for their ‘gracious professionalism’ and ‘coopertition’ — a portmanteau meaning a willingness to cooperate with other teams even as you compete with them.” Best of luck to the Mighty Minions at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute First Lego League Event from June 7-9!

Feb 26 Weekly Ed Report Web

Students, staff, and two governing board members from Flagstaff Unified School District drove down to the capitol for Parents Day to represent their district and build relationships with their legislators!

Maricopa Action Summit

**NEW** We’ve heard your calls and we can finally announce: the Maricopa Action Summit is happening!!! Join SOSAZ and many incredible partner organizations on Saturday, April 6, 2024 for a FREE and fun-filled day to grow your advocacy skills, make connections, and hear from incredible speakers!

Maricopa Action Summit

Saturday, April 6, 2024 – 8:00am-4:00pm – Tempe High School

REGISTER HERE

Upcoming Events

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

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.

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

Bills in Committee

SB1005, sponsored by Jake Hoffman (R-15), 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. Hoffman introduced the same bill last year, which failed to pass. Scheduled for House Government Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE.

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 so much as recommend a book to students that lawmakers consider too “sexually explicit.” This would attempt to build on a 2022 ban which has already essentially frozen the teaching of books like “The Color Purple,” “The Canterbury Tales” and “Atlas Shrugged,” preventing Arizona’s students from getting a well-rounded education. State law already makes it a felony to show pornography to children. Hoffman introduced the same bill last year, which failed to pass. Scheduled for House Government Committee, Wednesday. 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. Scheduled for House Municipal Oversight & Elections Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE.

SB1286, sponsored by Jake Hoffman (R-15), 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 House Municipal Oversight & Elections Committee, Wednesday. 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 House Ways & Means Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE.

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 House Ways & Means Committee, Wednesday. 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 House Appropriations Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE.

Bills in Rules Committees

After being heard in Rules Committees on Monday, these bills will go through caucus meetings (usually on Tuesday) and then be brought to a full vote. Make calls to your Senator to ask them to oppose.

SB1148, sponsored by Anthony Kern (R-27), would give every Arizona taxpayer 65 and older a one-time $250 state tax rebate, at an estimated cost of $390 million. Arizona faces a jaw-dropping $1.7 billion deficit, thanks in part to unbridled tax cuts. As 81-year-old Lela Alston (D-5) said in explaining her NO vote, “I would love to pass this if we had the money, but we don’t.’’ Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. 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 Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.

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