Stacked Transparent SOSAZ Logo

Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 2nd General Session
Volume 6, Issue 23• Week of June 10, 2024

Click here to jump to a section!

Vouchers Imploding as Budget Heats Up

It’s been a tough week for the voucher pushers in Arizona. The negative news around vouchers continues to snowball because the program has zero guardrails, zero accountability, and zero transparency. If there were ever a week to double down on voucher reforms in this year’s budget — this is the week. Yet all signs point to very little progress on voucher reforms as Gov. Hobbs and Republican leadership negotiates the budget behind closed doors. We hear Hobbs and legislative Democrats are pushing hard, but Toma and Petersen won’t budge and need to hear from you. 

Urgent ☎️ Call House Speaker Toma at 602-926-3298, Senate President Petersen at 602-926-4136, and Gov. Hobbs at 602-542-4331 to tell them to rein in the off-the-rails ESA voucher program. 

📧 Then, email them at btoma@azleg.gov, wpetersen@azleg.gov, engage@az.gov to reinforce the message! 

If you’ve already reached out, do it once more!

😡 Arizona Republic: MAGA extremist schools are receiving millions in taxpayer funds via vouchers in Arizona. Dream City Church school is the newest example — and happens to be the megachurch that hosted Trump for a political rally this week. Their school is sponsored by Charlie Kirk’s extremist hate group Turning Point USA and they openly teach anti-LGBTQ+ curriculum

💸 Shocking voucher data: This week, the Grand Canyon Institute released new numbers to show the impact of universal vouchers on our state budget deficit, and even we were shocked. According to the report, universal vouchers are contributing to a full HALF of this year’s budget deficit, and TWO-THIRDS of next year’s deficit. In other words, universal vouchers are driving the state’s budget crisis — which is why they must be reined in. As Laurie Roberts showed in her recent op-ed, cuts to public safety are being forced because of the budget-busting program: “This is what tax cuts and universal vouchers gets us.”

Billions in taxpayer dollars propped up religious schools via vouchers: This week, the Washington Post delivered a scathing review of vouchers, finding the vast majority of funding in Arizona and across the US is being directed to religious schools, blurring the line between church and state. In Arizona, they estimated 75% of ESA voucher funding in 2022-23 went to tuition, and 87% of that went to religious schools. Read our quotes below:

It’s been a tough week for the voucher pushers in Arizona. The negative news around vouchers continues to snowball because the program has zero guardrails, zero accountability, and zero transparency. If there were ever a week to double down on voucher reforms in this year’s budget — this is the week. Yet all signs point to very little progress on voucher reforms as Gov. Hobbs and Republican leadership negotiates the budget behind closed doors. We hear Hobbs and legislative Democrats are pushing hard, but Toma and Petersen won’t budge and need to hear from you. 

Urgent ☎️ Call House Speaker Toma at 602-926-3298, Senate President Petersen at 602-926-4136, and Gov. Hobbs at 602-542-4331 to tell them to rein in the off-the-rails ESA voucher program. 

📧 Then, email them at btoma@azleg.gov, wpetersen@azleg.gov, engage@az.gov to reinforce the message! 

If you’ve already reached out, do it once more!

😡 Arizona Republic: MAGA extremist schools are receiving millions in taxpayer funds via vouchers in Arizona. Dream City Church school is the newest example — and happens to be the megachurch that hosted Trump for a political rally this week. Their school is sponsored by Charlie Kirk’s extremist hate group Turning Point USA and they openly teach anti-LGBTQ+ curriculum

💸 Shocking voucher data: This week, the Grand Canyon Institute released new numbers to show the impact of universal vouchers on our state budget deficit, and even we were shocked. According to the report, universal vouchers are contributing to a full HALF of this year’s budget deficit, and TWO-THIRDS of next year’s deficit. In other words, universal vouchers are driving the state’s budget crisis — which is why they must be reined in. As Laurie Roberts showed in her recent op-ed, cuts to public safety are being forced because of the budget-busting program: “This is what tax cuts and universal vouchers gets us.”

Billions in taxpayer dollars propped up religious schools via vouchers: This week, the Washington Post delivered a scathing review of vouchers, finding the vast majority of funding in Arizona and across the US is being directed to religious schools, blurring the line between church and state. In Arizona, they estimated 75% of ESA voucher funding in 2022-23 went to tuition, and 87% of that went to religious schools. Read our quotes below:

The drain on public school budgets “occurs both when public school students use vouchers to attend private schools — meaning their public schools lose per-pupil funding — and when the state spends large amounts of money on students whose families would otherwise pay private school tuition themselves.”

“In Arizona, for instance, the cost of universal vouchers has exceeded the $624 million budgeted for this year, contributing to a budget hole that lawmakers have not yet said how they will fill. That budget crunch could affect public school spending and certainly makes any increases unlikely at a time when public schools are struggling, said Beth Lewis, director of Save Our Schools Arizona, which opposes vouchers. ‘Arizona schools are not able to pay for teacher pay raises or desperately needed resources. You just have teachers begging for copy paper and markers… This is robbing our local public schools and our most vulnerable students.’”

📣 Voucher Reform NOW: This week, educators with the Arizona Education Association held a rally at the Capitol to urge lawmakers to rein in universal vouchers — and #TeamSOSAZ brought parents and students to support their efforts. They argued that vouchers are hurting Arizona’s public schools, which serve over 90% of students. 

“Over the years I’ve watched as the funding for public schools is chopped and chopped again,” said Stacy Brosius, a 3rd grade teacher. She also argued that voters overwhelmingly denied a previous attempted expansion to the voucher program via a ballot measure as evidence that Arizonans do not want the expanded program. 

“The voices and votes of the people of this state have been ignored,” Brosius said. She and others also argued that the expansion is benefiting private schools that are allowed to limit class sizes and reject students, things public schools are legally barred from doing. 

🚗 Join the AEA for a car parade at the Capitol next Thurs, June 13! As they say, “this is the moment to turn up the pressure on Governor Hobbs and Arizona state legislators. We need to make sure that any eventual budget deal protects funding for public education and reins in ESA vouchers!” Come at 3:30pm to paint and decorate your car (they’ll have supplies), or decorate your own and come at 4 for a car parade! Sign up here!

Here are some good car window messages: “Rein in Vouchers NOW,” “Stop the Voucher Scam,” “Fund Public Schools — Not Voucher Grift!”

Sign our petition TODAY to tell lawmakers you demand ESA voucher reform NOW: bit.ly/voucher-petition

May 6 Wekly Ed Report

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.  SIGN HERE TODAY!!

Actions You Can Take

🚫 Contact House Speaker Ben Toma at 602-926-3298 / btoma@azleg.gov and Senate President Warren Petersen at 602-926-4136 / wpetersen@azleg.gov and tell them voters expect them to rein in unaccountable universal ESA vouchers now.

🔥 Thanks to you, we’ve placed a second billboard in Shawnna Bolick’s district! Help us put up a few more by donating at sosarizona.org/donate. It’s really ticking off all of the right people 😉and we can think of a few more targets…

📧 Use our quick email tool to urge your lawmakers to reform and rein in out-of-control ESA vouchers! If you’ve already sent a message, it’s time to send another one: bit.ly/VoucherReform

☎️ Contact your lawmakers to tell them to reform and rein in out-of-control ESA vouchers! Here’s the Senate, here’s the House

✒️ Don’t forget to sign the Arizonans for Abortion Access petition ASAP and turn in all of your signatures. Signatures must be turned in by the end of June to deliver to the Secretary of State the first week in July! The clock is ticking!

Upcoming Events

Check out our website and Facebook events to see details and register for SOSAZ’s 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!

🩺 Congratulations to the entire Raymond S Kellis High School Allied Health Medical Assisting class for passing their Certified Medical Assistants exam. This is the first time in the school’s history that a class has received a 100% pass rate. Way to go!

To close out the school year, the Puente de Hózhó Elementary School FACTS after-school program performed the musical Annie. The students and staff even made their own custom New York City backdrop! 🏙️

🦷 Students in Santa Rita High School’s CTE Dental class got a visit from Ryan Winfield of Winfield Dental Studio to demonstrate a brand new iTero scanner, which eliminates the need for traditional molds. Ryan also taught the students how to create temporary retainers, another dental skill to add to their growing list.

Around the Horne

Horne Puts AZ Taxpayers on the Hook for Failed Lawsuit: Last year, Superintendent Horne sued 10 local school districts including Creighton Elementary, Gilbert Public Schools, Mesa Public Schools, Chandler Unified, and Kyrene Elementary District in an attempt to mandate English immersion instruction as the only model for students learning English as a second language. The Maricopa County Superior Court quickly ruled that Superintendent Horne did not have the authority to file the suit, and that “even if Horne did have the authority, he failed to state justifiable claims against the defendants that could be resolved by the court.” 

Now, that same judge has determined that Horne must be held responsible for the legal fees incurred by Gov Hobbs, Attorney General Mayes, and the ten school districts defending themselves from Horne’s lawsuit. Because Superintendent Horne sued using his state office, Arizona taxpayers are on the hook for the full $123,000 in attorney fees — plus the fees incurred by Horne by his own legal representation. 

In response to the ruling, the Attorney General’s spokesperson Richie Taylor stated: “It should be a signal … that he never should have brought this case in the first place and that his time would be better spent supporting our state’s public schools rather than suing them.”

Budget Updates

Budget bills imminent. We’re hearing lawmakers may introduce budget bills as soon as Monday, and certainly by the following week. As the Arizona Agenda reports, rank-and-file Democrats are now looking at budget documents, and rank-and-file Republican lawmakers will be invited to view the negotiated proposal within the next few days. 

A huge hole to fill. As unaccountable universal ESA vouchers and tax cuts have pushed Arizona into a massive hole, our state is now $1.8 billion underwater. Republican lawmakers are stubbornly refusing to place any common-sense limits on the cause of the overspending: an ESA voucher grift that is overwhelmingly subsidizing coupons for private schools for kids who never attended public school in the first place. 

Misplaced priorities. It’s ridiculous for extreme MAGA Republicans to force cuts to the services we all rely on — not just public schools, but roads, public safety, health care and more — to infill the grift, waste, fraud and abuse of an out-of-control universal voucher program. Voters overwhelmingly agree it’s time to get this done. If lawmakers fail, it will be a somber day indeed. 

As the Legislature Turns

HCR2060 passes. On Tuesday, the House passed anti-student, anti-school “immigration” ballot measure HCR2060 along partisan lines, with only Republicans in support. In a shocking move, House Republicans effectively conducted the vote behind closed doors, closing the chamber’s viewing gallery to the public for the day while claiming full transparency (“the lights are on”) because they were livestreaming the day’s events on closed-circuit television. 

Desperate to change the subject. Our state’s Republican legislative majority has been confronted with months of negative headlines for mess after mess of their own creation, including an unaccountable ESA voucher program that is spiraling out of control and their out-of-touch zeal to preserve the 1864 abortion ban backed by the same religious extremists pushing universal vouchers. As Republican consultant Tyler Montague said, “The Republican Party is desperate to move on” — and, as he also noted, “It could backfire.” 

A costly blunder. The bill’s fiscal note estimates that HCR2060 will cost the state $41 million a year for state and local police enforcement; $178 million in new incarceration costs by FY29; unspecified costs for public attorneys, judicial proceedings, interpreter services, courtroom maintenance and public benefits administration; and a drop in revenues via state and local tax collections. With Arizona’s budget straining under the twin weights of universal ESA vouchers and a massive tax cut for the rich, this is money our state just doesn’t have. 

The first lawsuit. On Wednesday, opponents filed suit against HCR2060, alleging it violates the Arizona Constitution’s “single subject rule” (Article 4, Part 2, Section 13 restricts each piece of legislation to covering only one single subject) and asking for it to be knocked off the November ballot. 

More to come. If the bill makes it through this lawsuit and is approved by voters, it will face additional lawsuits. Article 9, Section 23 of the Arizona Constitution requires ballot referrals that cost the state money to identify a funding source other than the general fund that is “sufficient to cover the entire immediate and future costs.” And the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution specifies that federal law takes precedence over state law in the case of a conflict. HCR2060 is inspired by a similar Texas law which is currently enjoined in court

Lawsuits cost money. There’s also a cost to taxpayers for defending the law in court. Because it’s the state of Arizona that’s being sued, it’s us who must foot the bill.

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!

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.

©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