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Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 2nd General Session
Volume 6, Issue 12• Week of March 25, 2024

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Horne’s War On Kids Continues

Every week the answer to “What is Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne doing to attack public schools and students now?” gets a little stranger. 

This week, Horne exacted revenge on the recent dismissal of his lawsuit which sought to ban bilingual programs for students learning English — by getting his wife involved. 

Horne enlisted his wife to file a new version of the lawsuit, now roping in a Scottsdale parent who accuses the Creighton Elementary School District (which is not in Scottsdale) of running afoul of the law. The parent plaintiff is Patricia Pellett, an extremist who led failed efforts to recall four pro-public education school board members in Scottsdale in 2022.

In other words, Horne swore he’d pursue further legal action by involving a parent, but failed to recruit a single impacted parent as a plaintiff. As Laurie Roberts fired off in her recent op-ed, “Problem is, he apparently couldn’t find any. That’s because this isn’t about shortchanging kids or empowering their parents to choose the education they think is best for their children. It’s about Horne’s ego and his insistence that Arizona should teach these children only in a language they don’t understand.”

We agree with Attorney General Mayes’ office: “Superintendent Horne’s time would be better spent supporting our state’s public schools rather than soliciting lawsuits against them.” 

But Horne has been waging a one-man battle against ethnic studies and dual language programs for years. This is not a partisan issue — in fact, in 2019 the Republican-led Arizona legislature and Governor Ducey passed legislation that directed the State Board of Education to develop research-based models to give schools more flexibility in teaching Arizona’s 93,000 English language learners who were falling behind academically. Arizona is the only state with an English-only law still on the books, as every other state that went down that road long ago came to realize it resulted in poorer student outcomes. And yet, Horne remains dead-set on his ideological vendetta. 

“Insisting that he is right and everybody else — the Legislature, the governor, the State Board of Education, the schools that offer dual language instruction and the parents who want dual language instruction for their children — is wrong. ‘The evidence is clear that the Creighton District is violating the will of the voters,’ Horne said. The evidence is clear, all right. Horne’s ego has caused him to lose sight of his job.”

While we cannot replace Superintendent Horne until 2026, we can elect a new legislature this year that will push back on his attacks. See our 2024 Election Updates section below to plug in and ensure pro-public education candidates are on the ballot!

2024 Election Updates

🚨 URGENT! All hands on deck! Several new, pro-public education candidates for the Arizona state legislature have stepped up to run for critical seats — and they need your help to qualify for the ballot in just 1 week!

All candidates for the Arizona state legislature must submit their signatures by Monday, April 1st (no fooling!) in order to qualify for the ballot. We cannot elect a pro-public education legislature without having enough candidates on the ballot. Please follow the directions below and share with friends and neighbors in your area.  

Sign online using the E-Qual system here: CLICK HERE. You’ll need your driver’s license or Voter ID number, and it only takes a few minutes of your time. Here are a list of key candidates who have just filed or need more signatures (find your local LD here):

LD4: *NEW* Kelli Butler for House AND Karen Gresham for House

LD8: Brian Garcia for House

LD9: Eva Burch for Senate

LD13: Sharon Lee Winters for Senate; Nicholas Gonzalez and Brandy Reese for House

LD16: Stacey Seaman for Senate 

LD17: John McLean for Senate

LD23: Brian Fernandez for Senate

LD26: Quantá Crews for House
LD27: Deb Howard for House 

There are great legislative candidates to sign for across the state!

If you have more time: Plenty of other candidates need your help as well: Corporation Commission, Board of Supervisors, County Attorney, County Superintendent, and more. Take 10-15 minutes to sign them all!

Actions You Can Take

💻 Use Request to Speak on the following bills:

📧 Use our quick email tool to tell your lawmakers to vote NO on the current Prop 123 renewals moving in the Legislature and to work together for a bipartisan solution: bit.ly/Prop123Fix 

📧 Use our quick email tool to urge your lawmakers to reform and rein in out-of-control ESA vouchers! bit.ly/VoucherReform

👍 Need a RTS account? Sign up here

Voucher Watch

Despite their rhetoric about “protecting students,” legislative Republicans refused to provide safeguards for voucher-funded private schools operated by registered sex offenders.

While both the House and Senate unanimously passed a bill banning individuals on the registered sex offenders list from serving on a public school district governing board, Republicans balked at an amendment from Nancy Gutierrez (D-20) to expand those protections to private school students. 

Gutierrez rightfully acknowledged that there have already been instances of serious misconduct within the voucher program. Last year, ESA voucher-approved martial arts teacher Dyllon DePalma was indicted on charges of sexual conduct with a minor who attended his martial arts studio.

It seems common sense to do whatever we can to protect children in the voucher program — but extremist legislators like Rachel Jones (R-17), who has supported bills allowing parents to abuse trans children as well as banning “sexually explicit material” (which includes classic art and literature) and limiting sex ed in public schools, thinks that preventing sex offenders from running private schools funded by public dollars via vouchers is “not the government’s job.” 

Apparently, she and her colleagues are more interested in attacking public schools and trans youth than actually protecting students they claim to serve. 

Upcoming Events

The Maricopa Action Summit is TWO WEEKS away! Join SOSAZ and many incredible partner organizations on Saturday, April 6th for a FREE and fun-filled day with opportunities to attend a variety of classes, connect with organizations, hear from panelists and elected officials and make connections with other advocates!

Maricopa Action Summit

Saturday, April 6, 2024 – 8am-4pm – Tempe High School

REGISTER HERE

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!

Queen Creek High School is celebrating longtime track coach Shaun Hardt for winning the NFHS Girls Track & Field coach of the year! Shaun is a third generation track and field coach, and has led the team to over 100 track meet victories and three state victories. Shaun doesn’t just support his students on the track — his athletes say he has been a huge part of molding them into the people they are today.

In Marana, the Golder Ranch Fire District brought their passion and their fire truck to Butterfield Elementary’s Career Day.

Fourth grade students at Cottonwood-Oak Creek’s Mountain View Prep had the opportunity to attend “Charlotte’s Web” at Yavapai Community College — and as you can see, they dressed to impress!

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.

As the Legislature Turns

Monday marks Day 78 of what is supposed to be a 100-day legislative session, and committee hearings are ending for the year. Any bill not heard in committee after this point is considered dead. Last week saw the final Education Committee hearings of 2024; this week, regularly scheduled committees are wrapping up with the traditional catch-all “trash can Appropriations” hearings in which lawmakers advance an unrelated variety of stalled or last-minute proposals in an effort to circumvent the deadline. From here on out, we enter the “fog of secrecy” as budget negotiations begin. Floor calendars, which are released daily, will mark the only public legislative action, while everything else happens behind the scenes. 

This has been an incredibly slow year for legislative work. Lawmakers have sent fewer than 1% of introduced bills up to Gov. Hobbs’ desk — and the bills they are choosing to hear are wildly extreme. From punitively docking school letter grades to dictating curriculum, advancing vaccine conspiracy theories, and attacking vulnerable students, Arizona’s current 1-seat Republican majority wants to overregulate every facet of Arizona public school classrooms (but not ESA voucher-funded private school classrooms). It’s no surprise that many of these bills are faltering, even as they stare down the expected gubernatorial veto. 

Judy Schwiebert (D-2) said it best in her vote explanation on a bill that would force public schools to advertise for voucher schools, calling it “so representative of my 4 years here serving my community under the current 1-seat Republican majority.” Schwiebert continued, “It’s so telling that a Republican majority that claims to prioritize parent choice has passed bill after bill disrespecting the parents of over a million students every year who choose our public schools for the public education they provide despite the legislature’s best efforts to undercut them.” 

As public school parents ourselves, we couldn’t agree more! Please complete the “Actions You Can Take” section of this report; your voices are incredibly important. Then, help us build a pro-public education legislative majority at the Legislature for the first time in decades! See the “2024 Election Updates” section of this report for what you can do.

Bills in Committee

SB1166, sponsored by John Kavanagh (R-3), would force schools to notify parents within five days if their minor child asked a teacher to use a preferred pronoun or name different from their biological sex or given name. It would also allow teachers to refuse to comply with that request, effectively greenlighting the misgendering of students. The sponsor says he’s compromised to try to get it past Gov. Hobbs’ veto stamp by making this year’s bill more “permissive” than last year’s, which required teachers to obtain written parental permission before they could respect a student’s identity. He dismissed the idea that requiring disclosure of a student’s gender identity would effectively amount to a ban for students with hostile families, saying that’s a matter for Child Protective Services to handle. Scheduled for House Appropriations Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.

Bills in Rules Committees

After being heard in Rules Committees on Monday, these bills will go through caucus meetings (usually on Tuesday) and then be brought to a full vote. Make calls to your senator (for House bills) and representatives (for Senate bills) to ask them to oppose.

 

SB1151, sponsored by Anthony Kern (R-27), permits Arizona schools to post copies or excerpts of the Ten Commandments, or read the material aloud to their students. Right now, all public schools are prohibited from including religious or partisan materials in instruction. Lawsuits over the obvious First Amendment violation will be directed at school districts, which will then have to defend themselves and foot the bill for that. The bill faces opposition from David Cook (R-7) on constitutional grounds. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE. 

SB1286, sponsored by Jake Hoffman (R-15), would require all district schools to close on primary and general election days, and district schools (but not charter or ESA voucher-funded schools) to offer their gymnasiums as polling places. Teachers would be required to attend inservice training and banned from taking a vacation day, presumably to keep them from working the polls. Arizona and the nation are already struggling to find enough election workers; it makes no sense to legislate a ban on teachers doing their patriotic duty — to say nothing of the disruption this would cause to families. Similar to a bill from last year that Gov. Hobbs vetoed. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE. 

SB1583, sponsored by Justine Wadsack (R-17), would require each public school in Arizona to give parents an overview of the ESA voucher program, including award amount and approved expenses; a list of charter schools located a “reasonable distance” from the school; and several pages of information on “Arizona’s school choice options” for the parent to sign. The school would be required to keep a copy of the signed disclosure in the student’s file and to assist any parent who wants to switch schools after reading the pamphlet. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE. 

HB2095, sponsored by Barbara Parker (R-10), would expand the school tuition organization (STO) voucher program to students in foster care. STOs are dollar-for-dollar tax credits to private schools that result in significantly less money for public schools (which serve the vast majority of foster youth). Since the STO voucher program’s creation, Arizona has lost out on over $2.1 billion in funding. Meanwhile, our state’s public schools remain in the bottom 5 nationwide, even after recent investments. Gov. Hobbs vetoed this bill last year. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.

HB2484, sponsored by Barbara Parker (R-10), would require district and charter schools (but not voucher-funded private schools) to prominently post on their websites whether they have a registered nurse. If they don’t, they must either post the health credentials of each person who provides health care services to students, or post that uncredentialed individuals provide health care. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. 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. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.

Introducing the Save Our Schools Arizona Legislative Bill Tracker! This is your one-stop shop for following the K-12 legislation lawmakers will be debating in the 2024 legislative session.

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

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.

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