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Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 2nd General Session
Volume 6, Issue 21• Week of May 27, 2024

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Vouchers Blast Massive Hole in AZ Budget

At this point, everyone knows Arizona’s universal ESA vouchers are directly hurting local neighborhood schools, students, and educators by diverting nearly $1 billion from the state’s education budget to unaccountable private schools.

But new data from the Arizona Department of Education’s Quarter 2 ESA voucher report reveals that a staggering 84% of students in the universal ESA voucher program did not switch from public schools!* 

This creates an additional cost to the state of nearly $442.7 million for students already enrolled in private schooling options — the equivalent of over 7,300 teacher salaries. This trend, as revealed by the Brookings Institution, clearly shows that the voucher program disproportionately benefits families from wealthier zip codes in Arizona, worsening inequality in our education system.

Former Governor Ducey’s ruinous flat tax and universal voucher expansion are directly driving Arizona’s two-year $1.8 billion deficit. Arizona’s Republican-led legislature has a clear choice: a) continue to fund the welfare-for-the-wealthy ESA voucher program and force significant cuts to vital public services, including local public schools, or b) reform the runaway ESA universal voucher program

Save Our Schools Arizona calls upon the Arizona Legislature to meaningfully reform the ESA voucher program by requiring students to have prior experience in the public education system, as required by Gov. Hobbs’ proposed executive budget, to responsibly balance the state budget and meet the needs of Arizona working families. 

We also urge lawmakers to add critically needed financial oversight and academic accountability measures as supported by 80% of Arizona voters, according to a new poll by the Center for the Future of Arizona. This includes 71% of Republican voters, 77% of Independents, and 91% of Democrats. Action must be taken in this year’s budget — Arizona students and educators cannot wait.

The voucher pushers are big mad: Upon seeing data showing the huge numbers  of wealthy families benefiting from the voucher program, the Goldwater Institute tried to argue that public schools educate wealthier families too. This wild red herring argument ignores the fact that Arizona’s Constitution requires the state to provide a free and uniform public education to all students — but it doesn’t require the state to provide coupons to the wealthy to fund their private school choices. 


*Methodology: Our data for voucher recipients with no district public school history was calculated by subtracting Voucher Recipients within District Boundaries (ADE’s State Board Q2 ESA Voucher Report Appendix A) from Voucher Recipients with Public School History (ADE’s Executive/Legislative Q2 ESA Voucher Report pgs. 4-19). Funding was calculated using the $9,768 average voucher (ADE’s State Board Q2 ESA Voucher Report pg. 16). The number of teacher salaries was calculated using an average salary of $60,000. We’d love to see how the Goldwater Institute tries to twist that math.

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

May 6 Wekly Ed Report

☎️ 1000 Calls on Thursday, May 30th! Join the Arizona Education Association as they make 1000 calls to AZ lawmakers and Governor Hobbs to demand ESA voucher reform in this year’s budget! Sign up HERE! You can call anytime during the day, sign up for the phone script and info. 

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

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 soon to deliver to the Secretary of State the first week in July! The clock is ticking!

Around the Horne

Another week brings another instance of Superintendent Tom Horne prioritizing his skewed political ideology over the best interests of Arizona’s students and schools. This time, he’s sent public, scathing letters to school districts, demanding they remove clubs…  that don’t exist.

Horne attacks nonexistent clubs: After receiving a supposed “web notification,” Horne accused two Phoenix-area schools of hosting an organization he alleged was distributing antisemitic material to students — Amnesty International, a globally recognized NGO focused on combating human rights abuses. Setting aside the fact that Superintendent Horne lacks the authority to dictate which clubs are allowed on campus, the schools in question do not, in fact, have active Amnesty International clubs on their campuses. 

Trust but verify: Instead of verifying the “web notification” directly with the schools, Superintendent Horne chose to politicize the issue by issuing a press release with inaccurate information. Had he conducted due diligence and contacted the schools, he would have found that these clubs had been inactive for years. In response to Horne’s actions, Cave Creek Unified Superintendent Bill Dolezal stated, “In the future, I would greatly appreciate you [Horne] reaching out to me directly if you are apprised of information that is concerning. That way, you can be assured that you are not publishing information or otherwise publicizing incorrect or misleading information.”

Get your priorities straight: This incident is just the latest in a long string of misinformation and baseless allegations leveled by Superintendent Horne using his office’s bully pulpit. We urge Supt. Horne to stop blasting school districts over false claims and instead focus on serving our 1 million public school students. Hopefully, Horne has learned his lesson and this will be the last time we write about him making baseless claims… at least until next week! 😣

Upcoming Events

School Board Signature Slams!

Saturdays & Sundays 10am-2pm

Changing Hands Books – Tempe & Phoenix

Mesa Taco Tuesday Canvass!

Let’s taco ‘bout pro public-ed candidates for the legislature and school boards!

Join us, we are happy to train new canvassers and always looking for drivers 🙂

Register here!

Northeast Valley Canvass!

Saturday June 1 – 9am

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 🙂

Register Here!

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

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

This week: 

Tuesday, May 28 from 5:30 – 7:00 pm — Register here!
Thursday, May 30 from 5:30 – 7:00 pm – Register here!

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!

🎓 Con-grad-ulations to the Class of 2024! Pictured above are students from Flagstaff Unified, Deer Valley Unified, and Williams Unified school districts. Like many schools across Arizona, Flagstaff and Williams help celebrate their graduates with a parade through local elementary schools! This is not only an opportunity for the soon-to-be graduates to reminisce, but also a chance for elementary students to see what their future has in store.

🎺 Four members of Mesa’s Skyline High School Marching Band have been nominated by their band director to try out for a spot in the Macy’s Day Parade Marching Band—and all four landed one of the coveted spots on the roster! But they need our help to get there: The students are fundraising to raise money for their uniforms and travel to New York so they can represent Arizona to people across the country. Click here to donate to their fundraiser.

🎳 Shadow Mountain’s High School Pathways Program for adult learners with special needs recently visited Bowlero for a tour of a working kitchen and some real-life experience applying for jobs. Interns had the opportunity to practice making a good impression with the general manager, who explained to them all of their open positions and the specific skills he looks for in prospective employees. The group was even treated to free pizza, bowling, and arcade games! Community connections allow Shadow Mountain’s Pathways program to flourish — and is proven to increase post-graduation job outcomes!

As the Legislature Turns

Anti-immigrant bill advances. After hours of tense and ​​combative debate on Wednesday, the Senate advanced anti-immigrant ballot measure HCR2060 along party lines. The veto-proof measure, which is likely unconstitutional and is projected to be incredibly costly to Arizona taxpayers, now heads to the House for a final floor vote. Media is reporting that House Speaker Ben Toma (R-27) believes he has the votes for final passage and says he won’t amend it any further. The House is scheduled to go back into session on June 4. If lawmakers approve the measure without amending it further, it cannot be vetoed by Hobbs and will go directly to our November ballot. 

Cheap political points. The “Arizona Senate Victory Fund PAC,” whose mission is to “protect and grow the Arizona Republican majority,” is already running political attack ads against lawmakers in competitive districts who voted against this harmful measure, making it clear that this bill is designed to score cheap political points. 

Shrinking revenues. Last month, legislative analysts said the state’s budget deficit had shrunk by $400 million because tax collections had been better than expected for a few months. But that trend is reversing: Arizona took in $93 million less than forecast in April because of disappointing sales tax collections that continue to trend downward. 

An ominous sign. This is an ominous sign, given that more than half of the state’s annual funding comes from sales taxes. On top of former Gov. Ducey and Republican legislators’ ill-considered “flat tax,” which caused the bottom to fall out of income tax collections, a decline in sales tax revenues will make it even more difficult for Arizona to balance its budget — especially as Republican lawmakers have dug in their heels and refuse to address reckless universal ESA vouchers, the other main cause of our deficit. Where will Arizona end up if we can’t turn this ship around? 

An extended break. As the constitutionally mandated budget deadline of June 30 draws closer, the Senate has adjourned until June 12. They could reconvene sooner, with 24 hours notice from Senate President Warren Petersen (R-14), but we’re told Petersen has announced this will not happen until a budget deal is in place.

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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