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Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 2nd General Session
Volume 6, Issue 25• Week of June 30, 2024

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The Year We WIN

So what now??? The legislature has adjourned without making any gains for public school students or educators. Because Republicans refused to reform universal ESA vouchers, the legislature was forced to slash hundreds of millions from community colleges, universities, water, roads, and more. 

It’s deeply infuriating to see what’s happening across our state, particularly for educators, students and families who frankly deserve so much more. We know it’s easy sometimes to give in to despair— but it’s critical to remember that THIS IS THE YEAR we can do something about it

🗳️AZ #1 Battleground: The Arizona state legislature is the closest in the entire country to changing. Don’t take our word for it — take Politico’s: “From the presidential race all the way down the ballot, Arizona is arguably the most important state in the 2024 election. And among all the toss-up races in Arizona, the tightest fight is found at the state Legislature: Republicans hold a one-seat majority in both the state House and Senate.”

🎒Why does it matter?: WHEN we change the balance of power, the Legislature can finally address critical issues for education with Gov. Hobbs, like raising teacher and staff salaries, funding full-day kindergarten, improving school facilities, investing in 21st century learning, lowering class sizes — and reining in the ESA vouchers that are draining the critically needed funding needed to achieve all of the above. 

❓Is it really possible? Absolutely. It is more than possible — it’s likely. If we do the work and raise the funds needed. So, what’s the path to victory to elect a pro-public education legislature? Here are some of the best shots for pickups in toss-up areas, though there are plenty more:

  • LD 2 (Northwest Phoenix, Deer Valley): Rep. Judy Schwiebert is running for Senate to pick up a seat (+1 Senate)
  • LD 4 (Scottsdale, Paradise Valley): Kelli Butler & Karen Gresham are both running for House to pick up a seat (+1 House)
  • LD 13 (Chandler): Brandy Reese & Nicholas Gonzales are running for House to pick up a seat (+1 House)
  • LD 17 (North Tucson): John McLean & Kevin Volk are running for Senate and House, respectively, to pick up a seat in each chamber (+1 Senate, +1 House)
  • LD 23 (Yuma): Mariana Sandoval & Matias Rosales are both running for House to pick up a seat (+1 House)
  • LD 27 (Peoria): Deb Howard is running for House to pick up a seat (+1 House)

As you can see, success in these races (and protection of ALL other seats) would result in +2 seats to flip the Senate and +4 seats to flip the House to a pro-public education majority (but even half of these wins would flip). This will require all of us to put blood, sweat, and tears into doors and phones or contribute meaningfully. 

💪What Can I Do to Help? It’s as Easy as 1-2-3! 💪

1) Knock Doors: Join us for canvasses (knocking doors to talk to voters with a partner)! Our events are listed HERE – and here are some great upcoming events you can join for candidates facing primaries this July: 

We always partner new folks with experienced ones, so don’t fret if it’s your first try. We also can always use drivers, especially in this heat! 🥵

2) Make Calls: Making calls in the comfort of your home (and with A/C!) is the way to go this July as we help candidates facing primaries. We get in a zoom, support each other, train new folks, and have fun talking to friendly voters:

  • Tues, July 2nd – 5:30-7pm – Sign up here!
  • Thurs, July 4th – 5:30-7pm – 4th of July FunBank – Sign up here

3) Donate: We could use your support to fuel our organizers, buy flyers and ads, and more to flip this legislature. With your funds, we will knock over 100,000 doors and call over 50,000 voters in these target districts — the only way to win. Donate HERE today!

So what now??? The legislature has adjourned without making any gains for public school students or educators. Because Republicans refused to reform universal ESA vouchers, the legislature was forced to slash hundreds of millions from community colleges, universities, water, roads, and more. 

It’s deeply infuriating to see what’s happening across our state, particularly for educators, students and families who frankly deserve so much more. We know it’s easy sometimes to give in to despair— but it’s critical to remember that THIS IS THE YEAR we can do something about it

🗳️AZ #1 Battleground: The Arizona state legislature is the closest in the entire country to changing. Don’t take our word for it — take Politico’s: “From the presidential race all the way down the ballot, Arizona is arguably the most important state in the 2024 election. And among all the toss-up races in Arizona, the tightest fight is found at the state Legislature: Republicans hold a one-seat majority in both the state House and Senate.”

🎒Why does it matter?: WHEN we change the balance of power, the Legislature can finally address critical issues for education with Gov. Hobbs, like raising teacher and staff salaries, funding full-day kindergarten, improving school facilities, investing in 21st century learning, lowering class sizes — and reining in the ESA vouchers that are draining the critically needed funding needed to achieve all of the above. 

❓Is it really possible? Absolutely. It is more than possible — it’s likely. If we do the work and raise the funds needed. So, what’s the path to victory to elect a pro-public education legislature? Here are some of the best shots for pickups in toss-up areas, though there are plenty more:

  • LD 2 (Northwest Phoenix, Deer Valley): Rep. Judy Schwiebert is running for Senate to pick up a seat (+1 Senate)
  • LD 4 (Scottsdale, Paradise Valley): Kelli Butler & Karen Gresham are both running for House to pick up a seat (+1 House)
  • LD 13 (Chandler): Brandy Reese & Nicholas Gonzales are running for House to pick up a seat (+1 House)
  • LD 17 (North Tucson): John McLean & Kevin Volk are running for Senate and House, respectively, to pick up a seat in each chamber (+1 Senate, +1 House)
  • LD 23 (Yuma): Mariana Sandoval & Matias Rosales are both running for House to pick up a seat (+1 House)

As you can see, success in these races (and protection of ALL other seats) would result in +2 seats to flip the Senate and +4 seats to flip the House to a pro-public education majority (but even half of these wins would flip). This will require all of us to put blood, sweat, and tears into doors and phones or contribute meaningfully. 

💪What Can I Do to Help? It’s as Easy as 1-2-3! 💪

1) Knock Doors: Join us for canvasses (knocking doors to talk to voters with a partner)! Our events are listed HERE – and here are some great upcoming events you can join for candidates facing primaries this July: 

We always partner new folks with experienced ones, so don’t fret if it’s your first try. We also can always use drivers, especially in this heat! 🥵

2) Make Calls: Making calls in the comfort of your home (and with A/C!) is the way to go this July as we help candidates facing primaries. We get in a zoom, support each other, train new folks, and have fun talking to friendly voters:

  • Tues, July 2nd – 5:30-7pm – Sign up here!
  • Thurs, July 4th – 5:30-7pm – 4th of July FunBank – Sign up here

3) Donate: We could use your support to fuel our organizers, buy flyers and ads, and more to flip this legislature. With your funds, we will knock over 100,000 doors and call over 50,000 voters in these target districts — the only way to win. Donate HERE today!

K-12 Spotlight

The legislature may not be in session, but there’s still plenty of news statewide on K-12 education, and we’ll continue to keep you informed! Here’s what happened this week: 

🎒🤞 School facilities lawsuit. The trial challenging Arizona’s state legislature on its failure to properly fund school facilities has wrapped, and the court’s decision is due in early 2025.  That decision can’t come soon enough. Before the new fiscal year has even begun, the School Facilities Division already lacks sufficient funds to cover the year’s needs. Districts say the funding process is “inefficient at best” and money comes far too slowly. The division requested state funding to add four new employees to help visit schools and secure grant funding. The legislature denied that request and instead cut their operational funding by 3.4%. During the trial, the defense (aka, our Republican legislative leaders) suggested schools should “explore other available funding sources” in the absence of state funding. We are crossing our fingers for a good outcome for our schools and will keep you updated. 

💰 Maricopa County superintendent in trouble. Last year, the Republican-controlled Maricopa County Board of Supervisors found that troubled Maricopa County School Superintendent Steve Watson had “consistently misspent and misreported” state taxpayer dollars, and commissioned a third-party audit. The results, which came in this week, uncovered more than a dozen financial practice deficiencies at the Maricopa County Regional School District run by Watson. These deficiencies included “ineffective” budgeting practices that led to “overspending and cash deficits,” such as more than $200,000 of improperly mingled funds and an unlawful land sale worth millions which the district now might have to repay to the state. This district serves some of the most vulnerable students in the county, including high school dropouts and students in juvenile detention. Watson faces two Republican challengers in the July 30 primary, and the victor will face a Democratic challenger in the November 5 general election. 

🧑‍⚖️🏳️‍⚧️ Testifying in transgender sports ban. The judge in the federal court challenge to a 2022 Arizona law barring transgender girls from girls’ sports has ordered Republican legislative leaders Warren Petersen and Ben Toma to produce emails and answer questions under oath related to the passage of that law. The two tried to argue that legislative privilege exempted them from scrutiny, but the judge ruled they had waived that privilege by “voluntarily participating in this lawsuit and putting their intent at issue.” The judge will use this information to “shed light” on whether the Legislature acted with a “constitutionally permissible purpose” in enacting the law, getting to the heart of plaintiffs’ allegation that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. 

Upcoming Events

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

Public School Proud Phonebanks

It’s BALLOT DROP WEEK!

Every Tuesday & Thursday – 5:30-7:00pm

Make calls with Team SOSAZ and help voters know which candidates on their Primary election ballot are pro-public education. Training is provided

Register for Tuesday, July 2

Register for Thursday, July 4

Click Here for a list of all of SOSAZ’s upcoming online and in-person events!

Vote 4 Public Ed!

Are you ready to vote for public schools? Take the pledge TODAY to ensure you’ll have access to our amazing voter guide and more!

Vote 4 Public Ed Logo 2024

Check out our new Vote 4 Public Ed website, which lists our current endorsements:

The Primary Election ends July 30 and ballots are mailed out NEXT WEEK 😲Everyone from every party can participate in the Primary election but if you’re an Independent or other party voter, you’ll need to request a party ballot by July 1. Mark these dates in your calendar and make sure you’re ballot ready!

Sign up for the Active Early Voter List (AEVL) or request a one-time ballot

Track your ballot – available for voters in every AZ county!

K-12 Spotlight

The legislature may not be in session, but there’s still plenty of news statewide on K-12 education, and we’ll continue to keep you informed! Here’s what happened this week: 

🎒🤞 School facilities lawsuit. The trial challenging Arizona’s state legislature on its failure to properly fund school facilities has wrapped, and the court’s decision is due in early 2025.  That decision can’t come soon enough. Before the new fiscal year has even begun, the School Facilities Division already lacks sufficient funds to cover the year’s needs. Districts say the funding process is “inefficient at best” and money comes far too slowly. The division requested state funding to add four new employees to help visit schools and secure grant funding. The legislature denied that request and instead cut their operational funding by 3.4%. During the trial, the defense (aka, our Republican legislative leaders) suggested schools should “explore other available funding sources” in the absence of state funding. We are crossing our fingers for a good outcome for our schools and will keep you updated. 

💰 Maricopa County superintendent in trouble. Last year, the Republican-controlled Maricopa County Board of Supervisors found that troubled Maricopa County School Superintendent Steve Watson had “consistently misspent and misreported” state taxpayer dollars, and commissioned a third-party audit. The results, which came in this week, uncovered more than a dozen financial practice deficiencies at the Maricopa County Regional School District run by Watson. These deficiencies included “ineffective” budgeting practices that led to “overspending and cash deficits,” such as more than $200,000 of improperly mingled funds and an unlawful land sale worth millions which the district now might have to repay to the state. This district serves some of the most vulnerable students in the county, including high school dropouts and students in juvenile detention. Watson faces two Republican challengers in the July 30 primary, and the victor will face a Democratic challenger in the November 5 general election. 

🧑‍⚖️🏳️‍⚧️ Testifying in transgender sports ban. The judge in the federal court challenge to a 2022 Arizona law barring transgender girls from girls’ sports has ordered Republican legislative leaders Warren Petersen and Ben Toma to produce emails and answer questions under oath related to the passage of that law. The two tried to argue that legislative privilege exempted them from scrutiny, but the judge ruled they had waived that privilege by “voluntarily participating in this lawsuit and putting their intent at issue.” The judge will use this information to “shed light” on whether the Legislature acted with a “constitutionally permissible purpose” in enacting the law, getting to the heart of plaintiffs’ allegation that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. 

Voucher Watch

Don’t miss our newest blog connecting the rise of private school vouchers, Christian Nationalism, Trump, and the agenda to dismantle public education. Click here to read the whole blog. 

CNN recently released an incredible in-depth investigation into Arizona’s universal voucher program, finding that millions in taxpayer funds are now being funneled to MAGA Christian academies. 

These new, unaccountable voucher schools (funded by taxpayer dollars) are being sponsored by far-right organizations like Turning Point USA, which spread Christian nationalist ideology. In other words — Arizona’s voucher program has quickly become an incubator for Christian nationalism. By design.

Across the States

🎉 North Carolina stops voucher expansion: An effort to expand North Carolina’s voucher program was stopped as lawmakers drew the short legislative session to a close on Thursday. Republican leaders of the state House and Senate had hoped to expand the voucher program and had earmarked more than $460 million for the program, but negotiations fell apart between the chambers as they tried to figure out how to spend a $1 billion surplus. Public education advocates worry this will rear its ugly head again later this year. 

😡Oklahoma obliterates lines between church & state: This week, Oklahoma’s Republican state superintendent, Ryan Walters, directed all public schools to teach the Bible, including the Ten Commandments, in an extraordinary move that blurs the lines between religious instruction and public education. Walters described the Bible as an “indispensable historical and cultural touchstone” and said it must be taught in certain, unspecified grade levels.

📜 Louisiana’s 10 Commandments Bill: Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry signed legislation on Wednesday requiring the display of the Ten Commandments in every public school classroom, making the state the only one with such a mandate and reigniting the debate whether the boundary between church and state should be porous. Critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, vowed a legal fight against the law, which they deemed “blatantly unconstitutional.” 

📋 Senate committee report shows dismantling of public schools: This week, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) released a new report detailing the coordinated and growing effort to undermine, dismantle, and privatize the American public education system. According to the report, over the past decade state funding for the nation’s public elementary and secondary schools has barely increased. During this same time, state spending on tax breaks and subsidies for private schools has skyrocketed by 408%, or $7 billion. These costs do not include 9 states that recently enacted, but have not fully implemented, their universal private school voucher policies – which will likely cause costs to further spike in coming years.

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!

Earlier this year, students at Connolly Middle School in Tempe put on a performance of “Once on This Island Jr,” a story about a girl who finds love in a world of prejudice. Congratulations to these students for a magical performance! 🎭

❄️ It’s Winter in July: Summer Fun has begun at Palmcroft Elementary in Yuma! Students are building, designing, and creating — from snowball catapults and winter castles to gingerbread men.

😁 There are nothing but smiles at Flagstaff Unified’s Super Summer camp. Students aren’t just advancing academically with creative and interactive educational experiences — they are also having fun-filled adventures and making new friends

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.

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