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Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 2nd General Session
Volume 6, Issue 18• Week of May 6, 2024

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Does AZ Actually Appreciate Teachers?

🎉Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! This week (and every other week), we want to thank Arizona educators from the bottom of our hearts for not only doing one of the hardest and most impactful jobs in the world, but for doing it in Arizona — a state that has consistently failed to value our educators, pay them a wage that honors their skills and hard work, or provide them with the resources they need to do their jobs. Just this week, yet another national report listed Arizona as 49th in the nation in per-student spending

At Save Our Schools Arizona, we celebrate teachers every day — especially during Teacher Appreciation Week. This year, we’re doing so by holding our elected officials accountable and reminding them how they can truly appreciate teachers: through meaningful policy change. 

If Arizona lawmakers actually appreciated our teachers, they would: 

  • Rein in universal vouchers, freeing up enough money for $10,000 pay raises for ALL educators.  
  • Reverse AZ’s rank as 49th in the nation in per-pupil spending by focusing on solutions to lift our state out of this hole. 
  • Prioritize pay raises and adequate classroom resources, not an unaccountable $1-billion-a-year voucher program for the rich. 
  • Fund classroom supplies for our local public schools — not voucher-funded luxury ski trips, waterpark passes, bounce houses, and chicken coops! 
  • Fund special education, full-day kindergarten, extracurriculars, STEM and career tech programs, the arts, and so much more!

The Republican-led legislature has shown a consistent disdain for teachers, prioritizing vouchers for private school students over the needs of educators and students in the public schools that 92% of Arizona families choose. Now, vouchers and Republican tax cuts for the rich have led us to a $1.8 billion budget deficit that is going to make achieving the above priorities downright impossible for the foreseeable future. It’s time for all of us to stand up and say no more. No more cuts for vulnerable families in order to line the pockets of the rich. 

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

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. 

Actions You Can Take

🔥Love our new billboard near the AZ Capitol? Help us put up a few more by donating at sosarizona.org/donate

It’s really ticking off all of the right people 😉

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

☎️ Call your lawmakers to tell them to reform and rein in out-of-control ESA vouchers! Here’s the Senate, here’s the House!

K-12 Spotlight

💰AZ Districts Left to Pay Check for ESA Voucher Evaluations: Last week, 12 News reported that, since vouchers were expanded universally in 2022, there has been a surge of private school families using local school districts for evaluations for their children who do not attend their neighborhood schools — draining scarce resources from underfunded special needs programs. 

Massive financial drain: The Superintendent of Deer Valley said it’s costing his district schools $500,000 a year. These evaluations pull special education teachers and psychologists away from their own students in order to test — with no reimbursement to the school to allow for hiring more staff to cover both needs. 

This week, Republican lawmaker Ken Bennett agreed that this is a “legitimate concern… School districts shouldn’t be having to pay $1000 or $2000 evaluations for students not attending their school district.” 

Federal law obligates local schools to conduct these evaluations — but those laws do not prevent districts from asking ESA voucher families to pay for these services with ESA funding (as they do with private providers). Lawmakers could easily fix this issue — call upon them to do just that with ESA reforms: bit.ly/voucher-petition if you haven’t already signed!

Voucher Watch

🎉 Tennessee: It’s official, education advocates in TN have killed their voucher bill for the year. The bill was championed by Gov. Bill Lee and pushed by DeVos’ American Federation for Children. Sadly, lawmakers opted to arm teachers in separate legislation before adjourning for the year. In good news, NO school districts have opted to allow teachers to carry guns on campus. 

💪 Nebraska: Nebraska lawmakers have made an end run on voters who signed petitions last summer to put vouchers on the ballot in 2024. The Nebraska legislature has voided the referred bill, replacing it with a new bill. Education advocates in Nebraska are not going down without a fight, and have already filed petitions to put the new voucher measure on the ballot. We’re rooting for you, Nebraska! 

😞 Georgia: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the state’s first voucher law into effect this week. Unlike Arizona’s program, Georgia’s is targeted. It is limited to students zoned into the lowest-performing schools, and voucher recipients must have attended public school for at least a year to qualify. The cost to the state is capped at 1% of K-12 funding. Having cracked open the door, voucher pushers will surely be back in Georgia to expand this program next year (ask us how we know)… 

😡 North Carolina: After passing a voucher bill last year that ended income eligibility for their voucher program, Republicans in North Carolina voted for another massive expansion this week. The legislation will set aside $500 million more for voucher programs, while local public schools remain massively underfunded. During Thursday’s hour-long floor debate on the issue, Senate Democrats argued it was unfair for the wealthiest families to receive taxpayer-funded vouchers so they can send their children to private schools they can already afford when the state’s public schools are struggling for more funds.

As the Legislature Turns

Monday marks Day 120 of what is supposed to be a 100-day legislative session. Not only is a state budget (lawmakers’ only constitutionally mandated responsibility) nowhere in sight, it seems negotiations are still stuck at the starting gate. 

Pay to play: As session drags on, lawmakers’ per diem pay (a daily subsistence allowance that includes weekends and holidays) drops from $35/day to $10/day for lawmakers who live in Maricopa County and from $238/day to $119/day for lawmakers who live in the other 14 counties. Reducing this pay after Day 120 is meant as an incentive to finish business and send lawmakers home — or, this year, out to campaign for the July primary and November general elections. 

Skeleton schedule & misguided priorities: The legislature continues its skeleton schedule of meeting only on Wednesdays, just one day of work per week. Notably, the House has decided to take two weeks off and will reconvene on May 15. Meanwhile, the Senate will hold a committee hearing to advance a strike-everything amendment and send an already-vetoed “border security” bill directly to voters. According to their press release, Senate Republicans plan to transform HCR2060 (in shades of Arizona’s notorious SB1070) into a ballot measure asking voters to allow local police to arrest migrants crossing the border. We wish they’d apply some of this excessive election-year fear-mongering to solving the very real problems plaguing our strapped, underfunded public neighborhood schools!

Upcoming Events

It’s May, which means it’s budget season and Teacher Appreciation Week! Join us for our Statewide Volunteer Huddle to hear the latest updates and how you can help us celebrate teachers this week:

Statewide Volunteer Huddle

Sunday, May 5 from 6:00-7:00 pm

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 area – 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

Register Here!

Running for school board and need support? Join SOSAZ and our partners for a 4-part training series available in April, May, and June!

School Board Candidate Training Series

See all upcoming training dates and REGISTER HERE

Public School Proud Weekly Virtual Phonebanks

Join us to connect with voters at our Public School Proud Phonebanks every Tuesday from 5:30-7:00pm – this is a great chance to start making a difference to elect a Public School Proud legislature this November! 

Next one: Tuesday, May 7 from 5:30 – 7:00 pm — Register here!

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Volunteer Outreach Weekly Virtual Phonebanks

Call SOSAZ volunteers to tell them about important events and help them engage in ways to help flip the Legislature! We have a lot of fun, join us!

Next one: Thursday, May 9th 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!

May 6 Wekly Ed Report

At Roosevelt Elementary School in Yuma, students participated in an eight-week series of ballet classes. These future dancers learned to point their toes and pirouette thanks to a partnership with Ballet Yuma, who also provided all of the student uniforms. Here’s to having fun and staying active!

May 6 Wekly Ed Report

A huge congratulations to Ironwood High School’s Mikah Dyer on being named a 2024 Flinn Scholar! The Flinn Scholarship is the most prestigious in the state, offering recipients a full-ride scholarship to any in-state university, including room and board and two opportunities to study abroad. Besides being a consummate scholar, 18-year-old Mikah is also a dedicated advocate for public schools and is currently running for the Peoria School Board to bring youth representation to the district. Way to go Mikah!!!

May 6 Wekly Ed Report

Students at Chandler Online Academy — Elementary had the opportunity to gain new perspective during their April Family Night. Thanks to a partnership with Ability360, a nonprofit that “empowers people with disabilities so they may lead independent lifestyles in the community,” students learned how to play adaptive basketball and softball and how they can be more inclusive in all the sports they play.

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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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.

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