Stacked Transparent SOSAZ Logo

Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 2nd General Session
Volume 6, Issue 3• Week of January 22, 2024

Click here to jump to a section!

AZ Students Need Lawmakers to Reach Deal on Prop 123

For far too long, the lack of a comprehensive funding plan from Arizona’s Republican-controlled legislature has forced our neighborhood public schools to cobble necessities together as best they can for kids: by running bonds and overrides, by begging for donations from parents and the community, or by simply going without. It’s no secret that Arizona ranks 49th in the nation for per-pupil public school funding — so when one Band-Aid falls off, out of the many that are being used to cover a gaping wound, a solution must be found. 

Another fiscal cliff is coming for our local schools: Prop 123, which provides public schools with roughly $300 million per year, expires in 2025. To keep that funding flowing, state lawmakers must send a renewal to the ballot in 2024 and voters must reauthorize it. Fortunately, a solid majority at the state Capitol seems to agree that renewal is needed. But, as always, the devil is in the details. Both sides are closer than they’d like to admit and will eventually need to sit down together to hammer out those details — or Arizona students and teachers will lose. 

The Republican Plan: Despite Republicans being first to broach the topic of Prop 123 in November, they have yet to introduce bills outlining their proposal or explain the details of their plan. We have concerns about the plan they sketched out in their press conference, because they would restrict the funding for use only in teacher pay. This clear sign of distrust in public schools would reduce the money available for classrooms and force the state to cover those costs out of the General Fund. Republicans say the state is able to float those costs, but because Arizona faces a $1.7 billion deficit for this fiscal year and next — and possibly for years into the future — the math is sketchy at best. 

Hobbs’ Plan: This past week, Gov. Hobbs introduced her own Prop 123 extension proposal and suggested setting aside $257 million a year to continue general education funding. That strategy, which is not in the Republican plan, would ensure funds remain earmarked for K-12 schools regardless of whether Arizona faces future economic turmoil. The Hobbs plan would also increase distribution by 2 percent, directing the extra funding to compensate all educators and support staff and to bolster school safety. 

Public education advocates were skeptical of Prop 123 when it was first introduced. However, the body of the State Land Trust has remained strong, growing to nearly $8 billion with an average 10-year annualized return of 7.24%. Given that former state treasurer Jeff DeWit opposed the original Prop 123 (and has since been proven wrong), we’re inclined to take current treasurer Yee’s similar opinion with a large grain of salt. 

Arizona public schools desperately need the funding. In Arizona, these measures rarely pass without the Governor’s support; we continue to remain hopeful that lawmakers and the Governor will reach an agreement that continues — or even bolsters — this critically needed education funding.

Introducing… the Save Our Schools Arizona AZ Leg Bill Tracker! This is your one-stop shop for all the K12 legislation lawmakers will be debating in the 2024 legislative session.

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

Actions You Can Take

🛑 Use Request to Speak on the following bills:

👎 NO on SB1097  • 👎 NO on SCR1007

👎 NO on HB2086  •  👎 NO on HB2310

👍 YES on SB1105

💻 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

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

Join us for the first Statewide Volunteer Huddle of 2024! Get the details about what’s happening in the legislature from our policy experts, hear from guest speakers and get to know other public school supporters in your area!

Statewide Volunteer Huddle

with Senate Minority Leader Mitzi Epstein

Sunday, January 21 at 6 pm – Virtual – Register HERE

It’s that time of year! New to Request to Speak, have an RTS account but don’t know how to use it, or just need a refresher? Join Save Our Schools Arizona and Civic Engagement Beyond Voting for a  basic walk-through of the system gives anyone a few shortcuts and tips, and gets you going on this uniquely Arizonan way to tell your AZ legislators which bills you support or oppose.

Make Your Voice Heard: Request to Speak 101

Monday, January 22 at 6:30 pm – Virtual – Register HERE

It’s that time of year! New to Request to Speak, have an RTS account but don’t know how to use it, or just need a refresher? Join Save Our Schools Arizona and Civic Engagement Beyond Voting for a  basic walk-through of the system gives anyone a few shortcuts and tips, and gets you going on this uniquely Arizonan way to tell your AZ legislators which bills you support or oppose.

Make Your Voice Heard: Request to Speak 101

Monday, January 22 at 6:30 pm – Virtual – Register HERE

Bills in Committee

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 Senate Education Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE.

SCR1007, sponsored by Frank Carroll (R-28), would ask voters to ban “Arizona public entities,” including public schools, from signing contracts of over $100,000 with companies unless they agree not to “discriminate” against gun manufacturers. This would create new hurdles for Arizona’s neighborhood schools in everything from building facilities to purchasing supplies. Similar bills from previous years have been backed by the NRA. Scheduled for Senate Military Affairs, Public Safety & Border Security Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE.

HB2086, sponsored by Laurin Hendrix (R-14), repeals the requirement that candidates for county school superintendent must hold a basic or standard teaching certificate in Arizona. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.

HB2310, sponsored by Travis Grantham (R-14), attempts to define “grooming” in statute, and would ban “distributing photographs that depict a person’s sex organs” — essentially making it a felony to teach a health class. Scheduled for House Judiciary Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE.

SB1105, sponsored by Catherine Miranda (D-11), would group school counselors, social workers and psychologists under one term — “school mental health professionals” — opening Arizona’s school safety program to participation from psychologists. The American School Counselor Association recommends a student-to-counselor ratio of 250-1; in 2021-22, Arizona’s ratio was 651-1. Scheduled for Senate Judiciary Committee, Thursday 1/18; hearing was cancelled. Not yet on another agenda. SUPPORT.

Voucher Watch

All eyes are on Arizona as data around the negative impacts of its universal ESA voucher program continues to mount. Study after study shows the broad majority of universal ESA vouchers serve as subsidies for higher income families who could already afford private school tuition or homeschool expenses.

National attention has increasingly turned to Arizona’s ESA voucher program as the body of evidence shows that vouchers are defunding Arizona’s public schools and services — and directly contributing to Arizona’s gaping $835 million budget shortfall. 

Last week, Forbes highlighted the troubling trends in Arizona’s voucher program — and they cited Save Our Schools Arizona Network’s landmark report, “The Impact of Universal ESA Vouchers.” 

The article correctly summarizes: 

“The vouchers are being used primarily by families whose students were already attending private school. That means that there is no “savings” for public schools, because those students were never there; instead, the state taxpayers are taking on new, additional costs. 

Nearly half of the new expanded vouchers are being used by families in the wealthiest zip codes. Only 32% of the voucher applicants come from families making less than $60,000. And only 3.5% of voucher applicants came from zip codes with schools with D or F grades.

As with many voucher programs, students give up certain protections and rights, especially rights to programs that meet special needs. At the same time, Arizona has one of the most unregulated programs in the country.”

Professor Jennifer Jennings, Director of the Education Research Section at Princeton University’s School of Public Affairs, has also turned her attention to Arizona. She published shocking research in the AZ Mirror that shows Arizona’s ESA voucher program is increasingly being used by the wealthy and increasing opportunity gaps.  Dr. Jennings found a “troubling pattern: the uptake of ESA vouchers is significantly higher in affluent districts …. Rather than democratizing education, Arizona’s school vouchers are subsidizing its most fortunate families, reinforcing existing disparities rather than mitigating them.”

Professor Jennifer Jennings, Director of the Education Research Section at Princeton University’s School of Public Affairs, has also turned her attention to Arizona. She published shocking research in the AZ Mirror that shows Arizona’s ESA voucher program is increasingly being used by the wealthy and increasing opportunity gaps.  Dr. Jennings found a “troubling pattern: the uptake of ESA vouchers is significantly higher in affluent districts …. Rather than democratizing education, Arizona’s school vouchers are subsidizing its most fortunate families, reinforcing existing disparities rather than mitigating them.”

K-12 in the News

Extremist and divisive education policies are actively harming students across the nation. These culture wars are orchestrated by special interests that seek to discredit our public schools and teachers, divide our communities, and ultimately dismantle public education. 

It’s important to note that, if Arizona had not elected Gov. Hobbs, our schools would be facing the same crisis. Elections matter. Currently, a bill sponsored by Senator Jake Hoffman (R-15) threatens to put teachers in jail for even suggesting “sexually explicit” material to students, a blanket term which includes literary masterpieces such as The Color Purple, To Kill a Mockingbird, and so many more. Should this bill pass, we feel confident that Gov. Hobbs will veto it. 

The Washington Post recently published a powerful article profiling “The lives upended by Florida’s school book wars.” In one Florida County, thousands of book titles were removed and a superintendent was fired. As the Post explains, “The battle over what children should be allowed to read in school has riven Florida’s Escambia County School District. It’s part of a national battle, as school book objections surge to historic highs across the country.” The article explores the real-life impacts by profiling real people impacted: a school librarian, a teacher, a pastor, a parent, and a student. We encourage you to set aside 15-20 minutes and read this powerful series.

“I have never worried, ‘What if my child picks up an adult book?’ Maybe I parent a little more free range than some. But that’s nobody’s business — and how others parent is none of my business.

What is my business is what books my child can read at school. If you don’t want your child to read something you find inappropriate, there is an “opt out” form. Every school in Escambia County has that form. You can opt your child out of reading that book.

But you can’t tell other children what to read. Or — you shouldn’t be able to.” 

— Lindsay Durtschi, Parent and Plaintiff in a lawsuit against the book bans

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!

This week, schools across the state honored Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In South Phoenix, Roosevelt Elementary School District revived their decades-old MLK Day parade, originally started by alum Terrance Kennedy as part of a campaign to convince Arizona to recognize the federal holiday at a state level (Arizona was the last state in the nation to recognize the holiday). In Tucson, Catalina Foothills School District held their annual walk in honor of Dr. King’s legacy, including choir performances from two elementary schools.

Students from Ishikawa Elementary in Mesa welcomed their favorite bus driver John, with signs to thank him for his years of service before he retired.

At the end of last year, Washington School District celebrated their refugee community with an event called “Sumus Familia,” Latin for “We’re Family.” The event had special sections for Arabic-, Dari-, and Swahili-speaking communities, as well as interpreters from the district translation department, the International Rescue Committee, and Lutheran Services. Families attended a presentation to help ease their transition into the school community while students had the opportunity to build and play instruments provided by Heart Beats. Families also had access to a mobile clothing closet provided by the Welcome to America Project.

1000 Strong for Public Education

We’re excited to announce 1000 Strong for Public Education, a Save Our Schools Arizona Network campaign to demonstrate the overwhelming support for public education in communities across Arizona. 

We’re asking 1,000 people to make a meaningful financial investment in our work by the beginning of 2024. All fully tax deductible gifts go directly to our largest budget expense — our people, who live and work in the communities they organize. Every dollar helps!

DONATE HERE TO BECOME A CHARTER MEMBER

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!

unnamed-86

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

©2023 by Save Our Schools Arizona® All Rights Reserved. Not for use in whole or in part without permission.

Protect Public Education in Arizona!
Join the SOSAZ Team!
Be the first to get latest updates
straight to your email inbox!
Stay Updated
close-link