Stacked Transparent SOSAZ Logo

Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 2nd General Session
Volume 6, Issue 23• Week of June 17, 2024

Click here to jump to a section!

Budget Fails to Rein in Vouchers – Slashes Funding for Low-Income Schools, Water, Universities & Roads Instead

On Saturday night, the Arizona legislature passed the 2024-25 budget and adjourned for the year. This comes after months of negotiations between Gov. Hobbs and Republican and Democratic leadership, which was particularly fraught given the $1.8 billion deficit they had to resolve. Of course, this also meant zero additional dollars to allocate to public schools. 

It’s important to note that universal vouchers caused a full half of the budget deficit, yet this budget does nothing to rein in the runaway program. This means the budget fully funds vouchers and was negotiated on the backs of services for everyday Arizonans, seeing slashes to K-12 poverty funding, higher education, roads, water, state agencies and so much more. The budget cuts the opportunity weight for 2026 and 2027 (a nearly $130 million loss) for schools in low-income areas, signifying cuts for the most vulnerable student populations in our state. The budget also sees cuts to district additional assistance in 2026 and 2027 totalling nearly $50 million. We will of course return to the Capitol next year to fight to restore this funding. 

Lawmakers lifted the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (the AEL school spending cap) for next year, which is a ground-floor win for Arizona students since Republicans like to use it as a political hostage. However, K-12 schools are only receiving the bare minimum to match 2% inflation, which does not meet actual inflation. This will do nothing to provide better resources for our students and leaves us at least 49th in per-pupil spending in the US

On Saturday night, the Arizona legislature passed the 2024-25 budget and adjourned for the year. This comes after months of negotiations between Gov. Hobbs and Republican and Democratic leadership, which was particularly fraught given the $1.8 billion deficit they had to resolve. Of course, this also meant zero additional dollars to allocate to public schools. 

It’s important to note that universal vouchers caused a full half of the budget deficit, yet this budget does nothing to rein in the runaway program. This means the budget fully funds vouchers and was negotiated on the backs of services for everyday Arizonans, seeing slashes to K-12 poverty funding, higher education, roads, water, state agencies and so much more. The budget cuts the opportunity weight for 2026 and 2027 (a nearly $130 million loss) for schools in low-income areas, signifying cuts for the most vulnerable student populations in our state. The budget also sees cuts to district additional assistance in 2026 and 2027 totalling nearly $50 million. We will of course return to the Capitol next year to fight to restore this funding. 

Lawmakers lifted the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (the AEL school spending cap) for next year, which is a ground-floor win for Arizona students since Republicans like to use it as a political hostage. However, K-12 schools are only receiving the bare minimum to match 2% inflation, which does not meet actual inflation. This will do nothing to provide better resources for our students and leaves us at least 49th in per-pupil spending in the US

🔥”Because Republican lawmakers stubbornly refuse to touch their ESA voucher cash cow for the rich, this budget utterly fails Arizona public school students. Funding public school students at 49th in the U.S. while fully funding vouchers for the rich is a slap in the face to 1 million kids who rely on public schools.” — Don’t miss SOSAZ in Laurie Roberts’ fiery take on the budget

🔥“There are huge concerns with this budget… We need to remember that the ESA [voucher] program is siphoning off [hundreds of] millions of dollars for private schools and religious schools. We are trying to balance our budget on the backs of children of color in lower income communities. Absolutely not.” — Rep. Analise Ortiz, LD24

😑 ESA voucher reforms a “band-aid on a gaping wound”: Despite the Hobbs team’s best efforts, the voucher reforms achieved in this budget will do next to nothing to improve accountability or transparency.. Here’s a rundown of the reforms: 

  • Child Safety: Ensures voucher-funded private schools require fingerprinting for all teachers and personnel who have unsupervised contact with students and prevents tutors/vendors disciplined by the State Board of Ed from receiving voucher funding. However, fingerprinting records will be retained by the private school and are not required to be transmitted to the Department of Education, the State Board of Education, or anyone else for review.
  • Accountability: Requires ADE to re-verify a child’s eligibility every year before renewing the voucher, adds some new auditing requirements for ADE, and requires ADE to maintain an accessible online database of allowable and disallowed expense categories. 
  • Funding: Stops double-dipping during the summer by prohibiting students from enrolling in Arizona’s ESA voucher program from April 1 to June 30, which is projected to save the state $2.5 million yearly. 

Notably, corporate STO vouchers were capped on the deal at current levels, meaning the 2% automatic inflator on this harmful tax credit voucher is ended. 

🔮 Prediction: The Republicans’ hubris on the voucher issue will be one of the key reasons they lose the House and Senate on November 5. Arizona voters are watching, and they are furious. But we can’t rely on crystal balls: we’re sealing  the deal by knocking doors, calling and texting voters, and raising funds to protect and elect incredible pro-public ed candidates across Arizona. Don’t wring your hands — join us by volunteering or donating TODAY!

Actions You Can Take

It’s Roundup Time! Arizonans for Abortion Access petitions are due June 24, so it’s time to sign ASAP if you haven’t done so and turn in all of your signatures to us or any of the amazing events below. You can sign, drop off, and notarize at any of these locations! Signature gatherers who turn in a petition will receive a FREE T-SHIRT! 👕

Voucher Watch

🎉 Vouchers defeated in New Hampshire! State representatives rejected legislation to expand vouchers by increasing financial eligibility. Seven Republicans broke rank to defeat the measure. “Any family who wants to go outside the public school environment and educate their children, I think that’s fine,” Rep. Joseph Guthrie, R-Hampstead, said in the House on Thursday. “However, I have difficulty having the state fund that [private school] system.” Great work to our friends in the Granite State!

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!

June 17 Weekly Ed Report

The end of the school year means the beginning of summer camps! At Centennial Middle School in the Crane School District in Yuma, talented young musicians practice their art daily with their skilled music teachers! 🎶

June 17 Weekly Ed Report

Mesa Public Schools is hosting a month-long “Stick 2 Reading” event to encourage students to read over the summer! Students can grab a free lunch and pick up a book to take home with them. Visit mpsaz.org/food for more information!

June 17 Weekly Ed Report

In Tucson, TUSD’s Mexican American Student Services Department is running the Academia Huitzilin STEM Camp! Every Monday through Thursday, 3rd through 5th-grade students are invited to participate in unique STEM classes with hands-on experiments and weekly field trips!

Around the Horne: LEGO Edition

🤑 Horne’s Lego Lies: In November of last year, Superintendent Horne accused Save Our Schools Arizona of a “pattern of lying” and claimed that “no ESA parent has been reimbursed $500 to buy Legos.”  


Last week, we received records from the Treasurer’s Office proving that  almost 19,000 individual Lego purchases were made with ESA voucher funds from April 2023 through January 2024. In total, the purchases amount to over $1 million. This includes 2,800 sets priced at over $100 and 84 sets priced at $500 or more. 

As Save Our Schools Arizona’s Executive Director Beth Lewis said in the exclusive 12 News report: “Clearly Mr. Horne either doesn’t know what’s happening in the program he oversees or he was lying.” 📣🔥 

Some of the most shocking purchases listed in the 9-month period include a $1,800 discontinued Star Wars Super Star Destroyer, a $905 Titanic set, and a $900 Harry Potter castle. The data set also includes bulk purchases of multiple LEGO sets — all for the same voucher account. The most egregious was a single purchase of 39 LEGO sets worth over $4,200. It is important to note that the vast majority of these purchases were not subject to a review process, and were simply approved as “Supplemental Materials (no documentation needed).”

Even Senate Education chair Ken Bennett admitted that spending hundreds of dollars on collectible LEGO sets was “head-scratching…. The high-dollar sets do stand out and point out, in my mind, we need to find ways to stop a few abuses.”

Stopping a few abuses is great, but as Lewis told Joe Dana, “We have schools going without paper and markers. Why are we funneling money to kayaks, pianos, and Legos?

Laurie Roberts, columnist for the AZ Republic, had a simple conclusion to draw from the LEGO/voucher debacle:

Rich parents offloaded tuition onto taxpayers

Nothing, it appears, is more important than ensuring kids in some of the priciest ZIP codes in the state can acquire the proper Legos to build a Star Wars Super Star Destroyer ($1,800) or the Titanic ($905). 

Speaking of the Titanic, the state’s budget deficit is $1.4 billion. We’re $729 million short this year and $690 million low in the coming fiscal year. This thanks to a 2021 state income tax cut that mostly benefited the rich and school vouchers, the bulk of which go to suburban parents, many whose children already attended private school. Put another way: a bunch of well-to-do parents offloaded $7,000 to $8,000 of their kids’ private school tuition onto taxpayers.


Want a fix? Then change the Legislature

It is a slap in the face. But then, these legislators answer only to their base, the few who vote in the primary. Do you want a Legislature that spends less time diverting public money to private and religious schools? One that will instead work on ways to improve the public schools that most of Arizona’s children attend? Then change the Legislature.

As the Legislature Turns

Budget season often means “horse trading” — the practice of a lawmaker promising one’s budget vote in exchange for the passage of one or more unrelated bills — and it appears this year is no exception. Along with this week’s crop of budget bills, both the House and Senate this week passed no fewer than five* additional, long-stalled ballot referrals. All of the following will now appear on our November ballot: 

  • SCR1012, Kern (R-27), asking voters to ban Arizona agencies from creating rules that would increase regulatory costs, and instead require the Legislature to put the proposed rule into law. This would kneecap Hobbs and Mayes’ ability to regulate unaccountable, wasteful spending such as in the universal ESA voucher program
  • SCR1023, Mesnard (R-13), asking voters to amend the Arizona Constitution to require cities and school districts to hold their elections on general election days only. 
  • SCR1040, Mesnard (R-13), asking voters to amend the Arizona Constitution to create a submininum hourly wage for tipped employees that is up to 25% lower than statutory minimum wage. 
  • SCR1041, Mesnard (R-13), asking voters to amend the Arizona Constitution to allow anyone to sue to knock a citizen initiative off the ballot on grounds that it is not constitutional, in yet another attempt to stifle citizens’ initiatives. 
  • SCR1044, Gowan (R-19), asking voters to amend the Arizona Constitution to make judges in Arizona’s most populous counties appointed until the mandatory retirement age of 70 instead of retained by the voters every 4 or 6 years. Retention questions would go to the voters only in rare cases, such as a judge being convicted of a felony. The measure is written retroactively, so if voters pass it, the entire judicial retention slate for November would be thrown out, including votes on Supreme Court Justices Clint Bolick and Kathryn King, and all the judges would stay in office. 

Each of these measures passed along partisan lines, with only Republicans in support. Ballot referrals circumvent the governor, so Hobbs could not veto them. 

*At the time of this writing, the Senate was also considering HCR2056, a wide-ranging elections bill which would ask us as voters to ban ourselves from dropping off our early ballots after the Friday before Election Day. 

Republicans have now placed an astounding 12 measures on our November ballot, leading to fears that Arizonans will face an unprecedented 3-page ballot. According to Maricopa County election officials, anything more than 7 ballot measures will require a second ballot page. This means longer lines at the polls, the risk of only one page getting returned with a mail-in ballot, poll worker mistakes when handing out a multiple-page ballot, and more paper and higher postage costs — in short, all costs to democracy.

On the Governor's Desk

SOSAZ has asked Gov. Hobbs to veto these bills. You can too: just email engage@az.gov. To help streamline your request, put “VETO” and the bill number in the subject line. 

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. OPPOSE.

HB2719, sponsored by Michael Carbone (R-25), would require school bond and override measures to have 60%+ voter approval in order to pass. In effect, this measure could stop school districts from ever passing desperately needed bonds or overrides again. The measure also applies to cities, counties, and community college districts. OPPOSE.

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.