Now comes the attempt to prevent the Save Our Schools Arizona referendum from qualifying for the ballot

I mentioned in a comment that last week the right-wing Public Integrity Alliance was claiming that the Glendale Elementary School District personnel and Save Our Schools Arizona violated rules regarding the use of public resources to influence political campaigns in their referendum campaign against the “vouchers on steroids” bill passed by our Tea-Publican legislature, and signed into law by our Koch-bot Governor Ducey. Non-profit alleges campaign volunteers, school district violated election laws.

Now the big guns of the right-wing are rolling out their attacks to try to prevent the referendum from qualifying for the ballot. The Arizona Capitol Times reports, Voucher expansion on hold as effort to kill campaign begins:

School voucher expansion legislation is on hold after Save Our Schools Arizona delivered, by the group’s count, 111,540 signatures today to refer the law to the 2018 general election ballot.

A yellow school bus decked out in SOS Arizona banners carried the signatures to a loading deck below the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office. Volunteers in red SOS Arizona shirts loaded wagons full of petition boxes, and children dressed as professionals carted them to the building.

Beyond the spectacle, spokeswoman Dawn Penich-Thacker (above) was clear that the effort to quash the expansion of the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program was far from over.

“The supporters of voucher expansion will tell you this is about choice, but so far, the only choice that SB 1431 respects is that of out-of-state, dark money groups who created it,” she said to crowd gathered after the signatures were delivered. “What about the choice of 111,540 Arizona voters who want to have their say?”

Penich-Thacker said she received word that opponents were already asking that signatures be invalidated – signatures that were still in the boxes.

By the time SOS Arizona delivered its signatures, opponents had already made their first effort to hinder the campaign.

Republican elections attorney Timothy La Sota, who represents the Arizona Republican Party, sent a letter to the secretary of state requesting that it invalidate all signatures collected by three of the campaign’s paid petition gatherers on the grounds that they registered incorrectly with the state.

Elections Director Eric Spencer said La Sota alleged that one of the three had impermissibly listed a post office box as his home address, while the other had information missing from the street addresses they used in their registration. Spencer said he didn’t know how many signatures might be affected.

In response, Dawn Penich-Thacker accused ESA supporters of trying to stifle democracy.

“Instead of listening to their constituents, they are plotting ways to squash us,” she said. “Let me be clear: Every lawsuit to throw out a voter signature is an attempt to silence us. Every challenge to a retiree who spent this summer getting signatures is an affront to our democracy in Arizona. Every trick they pull out of their deep pockets is putting their political ambitions ahead of the future of Arizona.”

She predicted supporters of the legislation would use “fear tactics” to sway voters and exploit the current rules around ESAs, which, she said, SOS Arizona does not oppose.

The anti-voucher expansion side will certainly be up against legal challenges and high-dollar investments against SOS Arizona’s cause.

Hours before the signature delivery, the [“Kochtopus”] Americans for Prosperity Foundation joined the fray by announcing in a press release it will be “spending six figures to tell Arizonans the facts about how charter schools, Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, and other policies are enabling more Arizona children to obtain a quality education.”

* * *

Elections Director Eric Spencer said the final verdict on valid signatures submitted Tuesday is not expected until the last week of September at the earliest.

However, his estimate is absent litigation, which Spencer said is “100 percent ensured.”

And without a looming ballot-printing deadline, a legal battle is likely to be long drawn out and expensive.

Things are about to get ugly. Stay tuned.

7 Responses to Now comes the attempt to prevent the Save Our Schools Arizona referendum from qualifying for the ballot

  1. John Huppenthal

    We had 2,000 students who scored lower at the end of 8th grade than they scored at the end of 3rd grade.

    Wouldn’t want to have allowed them to escape would we?

  2. The only “education industry” is the for profit kind. Reminder, that Ds, Rs, and Is carried, signed petitions, and got enough signatures. It’s a non-partisan issue. We’ll discuss Vouchers for All or not after AZ Public Schools are adequately funded.

    • “The only “education industry” is the for profit kind.”

      I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Patricia, but there is an Education Industry, and it includes both the public and private sectors. Whenever I point that out, educators always try and say it isn’t so, but it is. Unfortunately, educators often start believing their own propaganda and press releases and start thinking of themselves as somehow more noble than the other people in the room and that they sacrifice more than anyone else in life. Therefore, they cannot possibly be just another industry. Sadly for their egos, if you strip away the fuzzy feelings, you find that the education industry is just another agency negotiating for funds from the public treasury and/or trying to get the public to voluntarily tax themselves to pay the industry to do it’s job. Both the undustry and the tasks are very important and necessary and deserve support, but they don’t need to be glamorized as to what it means.

      “It’s a non-partisan issue.”

      That is true. Like any industry, the political inclinations of the membership doesn’t really matter.

      “We’ll discuss Vouchers for All or not after AZ Public Schools are adequately funded.”

      Let’s be serious, Patricia: There will never be a point at which any public school will be adequately funded. That is NOT because legislators won’t funds the shools to that degree as much as it is because there is no point at which the education industry would ever say, “No thanks, we don’t need any more money. We have enough.” In fact the very statement sounds like some sort of punchline to a bad joke.

      I am not at all opposed to the idea of adequately funding public schools. They need to be given sufficient funds because it is important to all of us to keep our schools producing well educated, quality citizens. But that doesn’t mean that either side in the debate walks with angels and shares their purity. The education industry is a hard nosed group that negotiates vigorously going up against legislators with budget constraints and different priorities. Neither party is above using propaganda and half truths to push their wants and needs before the public and against each other.

      There is nothing wrong with thinking of education as an industry and it might just help in negotiations if we got rid of this sense that educators walk on water because of the nobility of their profession.

      Thank you, Patricia, for reading this far! ;o)

      • I moved here from Massachusetts, the state with the most post-seondary educated population. You are simply wrong, go look at the national rankings by county/municipality. Lexington, MA provides a better public education than most private schools, and the citizens are proud to pay for that civic honor. It is not the “education industry” asking for money it is the future of our nation requiring that investment.

        • “You are simply wrong, go look at the national rankings by county/municipality.”

          You are comparing apples to oranges. The success or failure of a school system, whether public or private, has nothing to do about whether education is an industry or not. The two subjects are completely separate and distinct.

          “It is not the “education industry” asking for money it is the future of our nation requiring that investment.”

          Are you seriously suggesting that the education industry does not ask for more and more money every year, and sometimes every semester? I assume you live here in Arizona and experience what I experience each year. On a routine basis annually, I see special elections coming around asking me to vote for funding overides to pay for school projects, infrastructure and other needs. Each year I also see the education industry lobbying and demonstrating for more money from the Legislature. These occur just as the sun rises and sets each day…you can count on it.

          If, as you imply, Massachusetts freely gives the schools all the money they without being asked, then good for the Massachusetts School Systems. And bad for the Massachusetts taxpayers. It also gives me more insight into why Massachusetts has the nickname “Taxachusetts” and why the state is experiencing a net loss of people each year. It is a shame because I think Massachusetts is one of the most beautiful States in the Country with a rich history and a wonderful culture.

          In any event, Susan, I know you resent me saying that education is an industry, but it has all the earmarks of an industry and it functions like an industry. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck.

        • John Huppenthal

          Extracting the quality of schools from the demographics of the community is very difficult.

          However, an amateur can do it at the state level by subtracting 2011 4th grade scores from 2015 8th grade scores. Why? Because the 8th graders were 4th graders in 2011.

          When you do that, Arizona ranks number one in the nation. We had the highest combined math and reading gains in the nations.

          The more sophisticated way to do it is to use regression analysis to carefully hold all things constant to extract the quality of the schools.

          RAND, perhaps the nation’s premier think tank, did this three times in the 90’s. Matthew Hingus of the Urban Institute, using a process that seems to replicate the RAND technique, updated the ranking of the states.

          In the RAND study (90’s remember), ranked Arizona schools from 30th to 21st. Massachusetts ranked 27th in the last of those three studies.

          Matthew Hingus ranked Arizona 13th and Massachusetts number 1. The difference in scale scores is about 4 months of education over the 9 years leading up to 8th grade – about 5% more productive.

          But, Massachusetts has a problem. What force is going to cause them to evolve, to change, to get better? The productivity of our school system nationwide has actually gone down 15% since 2000.

          Arizona has enormous forces causing it to evolve. I have two students in my class who are on wait lists for other schools. I am acutely aware that I might be able to persuade them to stay if I can meet their needs. I have 7 students who came new to the class from other schools. They are hoping for something better.

          We are the only state like this where almost every parent has lots of choices. Over the next two decades, those are going to become lots of very good choices – the intensity of the competition is becoming sharklike. Students are being slowly sucked out of second rate schools.

          That’s why the sense of panic from the district system.

          The Empowerment Scholarship Accounts offer something particularly special to the mix. Not enough money for business as usual and completely deregulated from the morass of education culture, they offer the potential for a huge breakthrough – the ability to double, triple, quadruple productivity. To blow away that 5% difference that separates us from Massachusetts.

          They also offer the potential to hugely reduce the burden of education and criminal justice on the taxpayer.

          These scholarships cost more than 10% less than district education in Maricopa County and an even greater difference in Pima county.

          Since 1992, when school choice started, murders by AZ juveniles have plunged from 70 to 7 (2012- last data FBI is carrying). I would guess most of those last 7 murders are taking place on reservations where almost no school choice exists.

  3. “A yellow school bus decked out in SOS Arizona banners carried the signatures to a loading deck below the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.”

    I have to wonder if a public school bus was being used inappropriately to push a political agenda. If it was a public school bus, it is a small thing, to be sure, but it does indicate a mindset that the misuse of public funds is okay if it supports the political position of certain factions within the education industry.

    “In response, Dawn Penich-Thacker accused ESA supporters of trying to stifle democracy. “Let me be clear: Every lawsuit to throw out a voter signature is an attempt to silence us.””

    Amazing hubris! To assume that SOS is democracy and, therefore, not subject to laws and regulations. I always understood that even democracy exists with laws, rules and regulations or it is simply a free for all with every individual doing what they think is the right thing to do. That is mayhem, not democracy.

    The truth is that if a lawsuit sucessfully challenges something that SOS did and it is thrown out by the Courts, it means they violated laws, rules and regulations and the signatures lost to the lawsuit are NOT legitmate. That is how the system is set up in order to have everyone playing by the same rules.

    “[Penich-Thacker] predicted supporters of the legislation would use “fear tactics” to sway voters and exploit the current rules around ESAs…”

    If anyone would recognize “fear tactics”, it would be the education industry which has always used them whenever funding or other legislation was being sought.

    “Things are about to get ugly.”

    Yes, they are, but the ugliness is going to come from both sides who, whatever their motivation, are heavily invested in the outcome.

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