Arizona Republicans still do not get it.
With days to go until the state goes into fiscal disarray because Republicans in the legislature are not mature enough to negotiate with Democrats on a 2023 budget, members of the former party of Lincoln, led by State Representative Ben Toma, are still trying to craft a financial blueprint that, in essence, stiffs public schools (both traditional and charters with a measly pittance of $200 million) while expanding private school voucher opportunities for the rich (essentially another tax cut for them that they do not need.)
Furthermore, the new funding crumbs for public schools would only become available if the voucher expansion is approved.
Hearings on these proposals are scheduled for today, June 15, 2022.
Ranking Democratic House Education member Legislative District 17 State Representative Jennifer Pawlik, reacting to the latest developments, posted:
Education supporters, there will be a special mtg of the House WM Committee tomorrow am. HB2853 ESA Expansion & HB 2854 School Finance, Weights. The bills are tied together. Schools cannot get the additional weights if the ESA bill doesn't become law.
— Rep. Jennifer Pawlik (@Jennifer_Pawlik) June 15, 2022
It appears that Republican holdouts Michelle Udall (who wants to be the new Superintendent of Public Instruction) and Paul Boyer (who has links to the charter chain, Great Hearts Academy) are not satisfied with the new funding for public schools Tomas is proposing.
Legislative District 18 Representative and LD 12 State Senate Candidate Mitzi Epstein captured the sentiment of all sane legislators who want to fully invest in public schools by posting:
🚨 instead of this #SneakAttack of a voucher expansion bill.
😡😖🚨 HB2853 and HB2854
In H WM meeting Jun 15.
🚨Pls RTS No voucher expansion
— Sen. Mitzi Epstein (@MitziEpstein) June 15, 2022
Arizona House Democrats chastised the Tomas ideas, posting:
Instead of investing in our under-funded public schools, House Republicans have dropped a late bill to fully expand taxpayer-funded vouchers for private and parochial schools. Special meeting of House Ways & Means on Wednesday morning after 10 am floor session. #azleg pic.twitter.com/A9k0xefZed
— Arizona House Democrats (@AZHouseDems) June 14, 2022
LD 28 State Representative Kelli Butler added:
AZ voters already said NO to using tax dollars to pay for universal vouchers for private, religious & homeschools, but GOP refuses to listen.
— Kelli Butler (@KelliButlerAZ) June 15, 2022
Save Our Schools Arizona, who will be hosting a press gathering at 9:00 a.m. this morning at the State Capitol to protest what the Republicans were offering, posted on what Tomas was attempting:
No. You just introduced legislation to rob public schools at the bidding of private schools & special interests. You are expanding unaccountable entitlement programs for the wealthy, while AZ public schools remain LAST in the nation in funding 😡#NoNewVouchers #NoHB2853 https://t.co/qPsD8SKZuS
— Save Our Schools AZ (@arizona_sos) June 15, 2022
David Lujan, the head of the Children’s Action Alliance and former Democratic legislative leader, issued two postings highlighting the need to adopt a budget and what the people support for public education spending.
State government shuts down if the legislature does not pass a budget by 6/30. The State of Arizona is one of the state's largest employers with the universities close behind. This is not a good time for all of those employees to be going without paychecks. Time to pass a budget!
— David Lujan (@DavidLujan) June 13, 2022
AZ Voters Prioritize Education Over Politics? pic.twitter.com/YqFGif4DL4
— ChildActionAlliance (@CAA_Arizona) June 14, 2022
The people have spoken. They do not want hidden tax cuts for the rich under the guise of private school voucher expansion.
They want public schools fully funded.
The $200 million that Tomas and his buddies are proposing is not sufficient. The $800 to $900 million that would have been provided by Proposition 208-Invest in Ed and supported by everyone, including possibly Senator Boyer would be.
It is time for Republicans to finally lead like their name suggests: For the public and fully fund all public schools.