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Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

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

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Demand Voucher Reform 602-542-4331

This week, Save Our Schools Arizona held a press conference to demand that ESA voucher reform be included in this year’s state budget — just as Gov. Hobbs & Republican leadership begin behind-the-scenes budget negotiations in earnest. 

☎️📧 URGENT: Call Gov. Hobbs at 602-542-4331 or email engage@az.gov to tell her office you expect ESA voucher reform in the upcoming budget!

Our message: Despite Arizona’s $1.8 billion budget crisis, Republican lawmakers stubbornly refuse to touch the off-the-rails irresponsible ESA voucher program that is set to siphon nearly $1 billion from local public schools this year alone. 

Vouchers are disproportionately benefiting wealthy families and directly harming low-income students. While dedicated teachers struggle to afford basic classroom supplies like pencils, paper and tissues, our taxpayer dollars are being diverted to fund exorbitant voucher purchases like bounce houses, $500 Lego sets, luxury ski trips, and kitchen appliances like an $800 espresso machine.

This is not ever an appropriate use of our taxpayer dollars — but certainly not when our public schools are funded at 49th in the US and teacher pay lags far behind the national average. And certainly not when public school students are going without basic supplies, field trips, extracurriculars, and even teachers. 

“Our state legislature has a clear choice: make devastating cuts to essential services and public education, or work with Governor Hobbs to reform the ESA voucher program and return public funds to our schools. A budget without ESA voucher reform is no budget at all.” – Beth Lewis, Director of Save Our Schools Arizona

At the press conference, SOSAZ also presented a 20-foot-long scroll with the names of several thousand Arizona voters who have signed our petition to demand ESA voucher reform in this year’s budget — a list that continues to grow. 

🔥 Signa Oliver, a member of Phoenix Union School District’s Governing Board, called the universal ESA expansion a subsidy for the wealthy: “My tax dollars should never subsidize the children of people who have the resources to afford to send their children to private and parochial schools. Disadvantaged communities should never have to subsidize the ultra-rich children’s privileged education wants.”

Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic interviewed House Speaker Ben Toma (who sponsored the bill that expanded vouchers universally) afterward. Unsurprisingly, Toma said lawmakers are open to some “process improvements” but rejected any notion of reducing the program’s excessive reach. He also said changes to the ESA voucher program are part of ongoing closed-door budget talks, but not a headlining issue: “The dominant piece is having the numbers work. That’s the reality. The math has to be real.” 

🔥 Don’t miss our OpEd from this week: “Universal School Vouchers are Draining Arizona. It’ll Cost Republicans, Big Time.” 

Real math? Reining in vouchers is the only way to avoid massive cuts to state services and agencies. The math has to erase a $650 million deficit for the current fiscal year and $676 million for the coming year, according to an April report from legislative budget staff. This is remarkably similar to the cost of the runaway universal ESA voucher program. If lawmakers continue to refuse to address this basic fact means inevitable cuts to state agencies and services — and potentially public schools. 

💥 Rep. Analise Ortiz of Phoenix pointed out that when a piano, for example, is purchased for a voucher student, it is used by one family, while one purchased for a public school could be used by hundreds of students: “This is ridiculous. It’s abuse of taxpayer dollars… We cannot wait. We need this in the budget this year because waiting another year means potentially millions of dollars that will be thrown down the drain on this wasteful and reckless program.”

📣 Rally on Wednesday, June 5! We will be joining the Arizona Education Association for their rally at the Arizona State Capitol to call on Governor Hobbs and pro-public education legislators to stand strong and ensure any eventual budget deal protects funding for public education and reins in ESA vouchers.

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 your House representatives and ask them to oppose anti-immigrant ballot measure HCR2060 when they reconvene on June 4. Read our May 13 education report for talking points against this harmful measure. 

🔥 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!

Around the Horne

😡 Supt. Horne has outdone himself. Now, his anti-public school, anti-student antics are hitting all of us in the pocketbook. We’ve excerpted Laurie Roberts’ op-ed for you since it’s pitch-perfect: 

“State Superintendent Tom Horne has been ordered to pay more than $120,000 to cover everybody’s legal tab in his thus-far failed but ongoing crusade against schools that are trying to help kids who don’t speak English.

Put another way: The taxpayers will have to pony up $123,910 to cover the hefty price of Horne’s outsized ego.

First, he threatened to defund any school district that offered dual language instruction, but Attorney General Kris Mayes pointed out that he doesn’t have the authority to defund anything.

Then he sued Creighton Elementary and nine other school districts to try to kill dual language instruction. But Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper dismissed his lawsuit, pointing out that Horne doesn’t have the standing to sue. Only the state Board of Education, she wrote, can decide how to teach English language learners.

And on Wednesday, Cooper ordered Horne (read: us) to pay the legal bills of everybody he sued, including Mayes ($38,360), Gov. Katie Hobbs ($44,247) and the schools ($41,303).

Naturally, Horne insists that he is right and everybody else — the Legislature, the governor, the State Board of Education, the school districts that offer dual language instruction, the parents who want dual language instruction for their children and Judge Cooper — is wrong. Naturally, he’s appealing Judge Cooper’s ruling. Naturally, he’s doing it with our money.

Horne insists that we teach these kids only in a language they don’t understand. If he continues to lose, of course, we’ll pay for it. But if he wins, those children will pay.

Upcoming Events

School Board Signature Slams!

Saturdays & Sundays 10am-2pm

Changing Hands Books – Tempe & Phoenix

LD 11 Sunday Funday Canvass

Sunday, June 2 from 5:30-7:30pm

Dunkin’ Donuts – 1909 W Baseline Rd, Phoenix

Register Here!

We will be talking to voters about pro-public-ed candidates for the legislature and school boards! Join us, we are happy to train new canvassers and always looking for drivers 🙂

Northeast Valley Canvasses!

Thursday, June 6 from 3:00-5:00 pm

Saturday, June 8 from  9:00-11:30 am

Address provided upon registration

Register Here!

We will be talking to voters about pro-public-ed candidates for the legislature and school boards! Join us, we are happy to train new canvassers and always looking for drivers 🙂

Connect, Educate, Engage — Igniting Change for a Better Future!

Save Our Schools Arizona and a wide coalition of partner organizations are excited to invite you to a day of action on Saturday, June 8th, at the Pima County Action Summit! Learn from expert presenters, hear from inspiring speakers, connect with passionate community members, and discover how to champion the issues that matter to you most effectively. You’ll leave with all the tools you need to make an impact in 2024 and beyond!

Pima County Action Summit

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Tucson High Magnet School – 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

Register Here!

Public School Proud Weekly Virtual Phonebanks

Tuesday, June 4 from 5:30 – 7:00 pm — Register here!
Thursday, June 6 from 5:30 – 7:00 pm – Register here!

Join us to connect with voters and volunteers at our Public School Proud Phonebanks every Tuesday and Thursday from 5:30-7:00 pm. Take this opportunity now to make a difference this November!

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 Chandler Unified student Prisha for earning Prudential's prestigious "Emerging Visionaries" award! Besides being the founder of “Sustainability Stars,” which “empowers young people to be changemakers by taking action to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and increase awareness and advocacy.” Prisha was also a winner in the Arizona Science & Engineering Fair’s 2021-2022 Computer Science Category and was listed as one of Junior Achievement of Arizona’s 2022 18 Under 18!

5th-grade students at Santa Cruz Elementary in Maricopa put on their thinking caps and their lab coats for the annual 5th Grade Science Fair! 🔬🧑‍🔬

🚌🖌️ Congratulations to Jackson from Chaparral High School for winning Valley Metro's 24th Annual Design a Transit Wrap Contest! His design will be featured on buses and light rails across the valley for the next year.

As the Legislature Turns

One chamber, one workday. The House comes back into session on Tuesday, June 4, which is expected to be their only official day of work this week. The Senate remains adjourned until June 12. 

Anti-student “immigration” measure. The House is expected to take up anti-immigrant ballot measure HCR2060 when it reconvenes on Tuesday. Save Our Schools Arizona continues to strenuously oppose this measure, as it directly threatens the welfare of some of Arizona’s most vulnerable students. Nonetheless, the measure is expected to pass, with only Republican lawmakers in support. If it survives the inevitable legal challenges, the measure will circumvent Gov. Hobbs’ veto stamp and appear on our November ballots. 

Prop 123 efforts stalled. Volunteers often ask us about the status of efforts to renew Prop 123, which directs roughly $400 million a year in funding from the state land trust to K-12 public schools. The only measures still alive at this point are Republican-led measures that would restrict funds to certain eligible teachers only, slash funding from 6.9% to 5.5%, penalize district and charter schools with penalties of $5,000/day if they fail to increase teacher pay. This version currently lacks the votes in the House to pass. Republicans continue to attempt to reach unanimous agreement within their own caucus only rather than negotiate across the aisle, and some hardliners are holding out for even more draconian punishments for schools than the ones in these measures. 

Though Prop 123 will expire on June 30, 2025 if it is not renewed, Gov. Hobbs has indicated willingness to call a special session “with a different Legislature” next year. This would mean her calling a special election so voters can address the issue before the measure expires, and is likely public education advocates’ best option at this point. 

Ignoring the budget elephant. At this point in session, all eyes are turned toward budget negotiations. Details are starting to trickle out; KJZZ reports that Senate President Warren Petersen has decided not to call senators back to the Capitol until a deal is in place. Meanwhile, veteran Capitol reporter Mary Jo Pitzl reports that House Speaker Ben Toma is still unsurprisingly hardlining on a refusal to reform Arizona’s unaccountable universal ESA voucher program, and notes that “cuts to state agencies are inevitable” as a result. 

Gov. Hobbs is declining to update reporters on the status of budget talks, opting instead to keep negotiations behind closed doors. Our current crop of Republican lawmakers has proven themselves over and over to be fundamentally untrustworthy; we’re reminding her that the public overwhelmingly agrees on what needs to be done and most respects those elected officials who are willing to publicly fight for what’s right. It’s time to pull back the curtain and let voters into the “fog of secrecy” so we can support her efforts to create a budget that upholds Arizona’s values. 

School Facilities Lawsuit Update

Opening arguments began Tuesday in Arizona’s long-anticipated school facilities funding lawsuit, which claims Republican lawmakers have persistently failed to make good on their constitutional obligation to adequately fund public education.

The trial centers around the argument that Arizona’s Republican-controlled legislature has failed to fund schools such that no district falls below minimum adequate facility standards. And it isn’t the first time: In 1994, the Arizona Supreme Court found the legislature’s capital funding system unconstitutional because it was built on the inherent disparity between rich and poor districts. 

The justices directed the Republican-controlled Legislature to come up with a constitutional plan to address their failure — which only resulted in more failure. For example, lawmakers created “district additional assistance,’’ but cut the formula by 85% from 2009 to 2017. Districts finally had to sue again. After that, lawmakers gradually restored the funding, but the massive damage was done. The cumulative cuts to this formula alone total over $3 billion in dollars schools never received.. 

“The legislature shall enact such laws as shall provide for the establishment and maintenance of a general and uniform public school system” — Arizona Constitution, Article XI, Section 1

Republican lawmakers did their best to get this lawsuit dismissed. Failing that, they’re arguing in court that they’ve given districts enough money and that it’s districts’ own fault they can’t manage..

As lawyer for the plaintiffs, John Bullock pointed out in court this week districts without high property values or those that can’t pass bonds and overrides “are left with shabby schools, crumbling infrastructure, an inability to replace their bus fleets as needed, and inadequate resources to keep their technology and curriculum materials reasonably current.’’ Hardly “general” or “uniform,” as the Arizona Constitution requires. 

And Republican lawmakers choosing to pass massive tax cuts and an unaccountable voucher program for the rich only makes these funding disparities worse. Will the Republican-controlled legislature finally be forced to make good on its constitutional obligation to fund our schools? We’ll keep you updated; stay tuned!

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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