Our “Wimpy Kid” governor, Doug Ducey, the ice cream man hired by Koch Industries to run their Southwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Arizona, aka “Cathi’s Clown” who takes his orders from Christian Nationalist Cathi Herrod of The Center for Arizona Policy, of course signed the universal voucher bill – “vouchers on steroids” – passed by a party-line vote in the legislature.
You can start walking referendum petitions this weekend to overturn this affront to the will of the voters who previously rejected a similar plan to defund public education and to privatize education for profit. While you are walking those petitions you should encourage voters to vote in the primary election and general election in November to vote out every current Republican member of the state legislature who voted for this bill on the ballot. This Referendum petition drive can be a godsend to GOTV efforts during Arizona’s long, hot summer.
The Arizona Mirror reports, Ducey signs new school voucher law, opponents launch campaign to stop it:
A proposal to let all 1.1 million Arizona students use taxpayer-funded vouchers to attend private school was signed into law Thursday, but opponents are aiming to let voters decide whether it ever goes into effect.
The Empowerment Scholarship Account program, commonly referred to as ESAs, has been narrowly implemented since its creation in 2011. Eligible students include children attending failing public schools, children whose parents are in the military, kids who are in the foster care system and students living on Native American Reservations. Currently, roughly 11,800 students are enrolled and receive the voucher money.
But House Bill 2853, which Gov. Doug Ducey signed on July 7, allows every Arizona student to get an ESA account — including those who already attend private schools — to pay for their education.
The bill was at the center of budget negotiations: Republican critics of the proposal who had defeated previous efforts voted for it in exchange for about $800 million in new funding for public education.
Which was made contingent upon voters not overturning the voucher law by citizens referendum – in an act of legislative extortion. If the “vouchers on steroids” bill is rejected by voters in a citizens referendum, the new spending disappears. It’s all just a shell game.
The Arizona Capitol Times reports Special session possible to avert education cuts (subscriber pay wall): After a marathon 167-day session, lawmakers could be headed back to the Capitol to ensure schools don’t have to cut spending by more than $1 billion next year. [This is because the one-time fix to avert the fiscal cliff in this year’s education budget did not lift the education spending cap for next year’s education budget. Referring the education spending cap back to the voters for repeal on November’s ballot would have been the obvious, correct solution, but then Republicans could not starve public education, which is their goal.]
Legislative budget analysts have said that only an estimated 25,000 students would likely take advantage of the expanded eligibility. About 11,000 use it currently, and critics have said that many of the new enrollees are likely to be from affluent families who already send their children to private schools.
So you are being asked to subsidize rich kids in private schools whose parents can already afford to send them to those private schools. Call it the “Richie Rich bailout.”
Save Our Schools Arizona hopes to block the expansion from ever going into effect, and has launched a referendum campaign to repeal what lawmakers approved. If the group can collect more than 118,000 signatures by Sept. 24, the ESA expansion wouldn’t go into effect unless voters approve it in 2024.
Today, we are proud to announce the launch of #StopVoucherExpansion, an all-volunteer petition drive to refer universal ESA voucher expansion to the 2024 ballot. Join our movement to protect public education & keep $1B in AZ’s public schools TODAY: https://t.co/Se3tAgpXWz pic.twitter.com/ODf9Z1CFxo
— Save Our Schools AZ (@arizona_sos) July 7, 2022
You can volunteer to circulate Referendum petitions HERE. Do it now.
Ducey waited until July 7, the final day he was allowed to act on legislation from the 2022 session, to sign the bill. Doing so means Save Our Schools Arizona has 10 fewer days to gather the signatures needed.
In 2017, Save Our Schools Arizona successfully referred a different ESA expansion to the ballot, and voters in 2018 overwhelmingly rejected the voucher program.
“We the people will not be dismissed. We will not allow our public education system to be destroyed in front of our eyes via universal ESA voucher expansion,” said SOSAZ PAC Chair Raquel Mamani in a press release announcing the referendum campaign. “Public education has lost a battle, but by no means the war. Thousands of volunteers, parents, and educators in every corner of the state will fight back, and we will win.”
It’s time to send these anti-public education Republicans packing and to Save Our Schools.
Note: Referendum organizers have until the end of the day on Sept. 23 to gather at least 118,823 valid signature on petitions that would keep the new law from taking effect until the next general election. Because that date would be too late to put the issue on the November 2022 ballot, that effectively would put the whole program on hold until at least November 2024.
By electing a Democratic legislature and governor this year, they could vote to repeal the “vouchers on steroids” law next year, and save everyone the trouble and expense in 2024.
Day 1: Thousands of folks came out to sign the #StopVoucherExpansion petition 📋 to protect public education for 1.1M AZ kids 🔥❤️
— Save Our Schools AZ (@arizona_sos) July 10, 2022
UPDATE 7/17/22: Republican legislator admits to new school funding this year being contingent upon voters not overturning the voucher law by citizens referendum – in an act of legislative extortion. Republicans will “declare school funding war” if the the referendum qualfiies for the ballot. Republican Arizona lawmaker threatens school funding ‘war’:
State Senator David Livingston of Peoria (R) said there “would be war” if an activist group, Save Our Schools, gathers enough signatures for a ballot measure to let voters decide the future of universal school vouchers, according to four people who were with Livingston Tuesday.
Livingston made the comments during a question-and-answer public forum in Avondale hosted by Westmarc, an alliance of West Valley cities. Attending the forum were business owners, school superintendents and mayors.
According to attendees who spoke to 12News, Livingston was asked about a looming spending cap facing school districts, called the aggregated expenditure limit (AEL).
Even though the legislature approved historic new funding for schools in June, Republicans did not hold a vote to lift the spending cap that would have allowed school districts to spend all the money. The legislature would need to hold a special session this year or take up the issue during next year’s regular session to lift the cap.
Charter schools (of course) are exempt from the spending cap.
Livingston said if Save Our Schools collects enough signatures by September to refer a separate voucher law to the 2024 ballot, “there would be war” between Republican legislators and public school advocates.
Livingston suggested Republicans at the legislature are prepared to keep the cap in place and even cut school budgets further, according to attendees.
That's an outrageous position to take: Republicans gave K-12 schools more new money than ever before in the budget, but are threatening to not let schools spend it unless unlimited private school vouchers become law.
— Jim Small (@JimSmall) July 18, 2022
[A] representative for Livingston’s legislative office told 12News Friday that Livingston was unavailable for comment. 12News asked for comment from senate Republican leaders but did not receive a response as of Friday evening. Livingston is running for re-election in legislative district 28 in the northwest Valley.
A leader of Save Our Schools said his comments are unfortunate given that more than 80% of parents choose public schools for their children.
“We have real dinner table issues that Arizona families are dealing with. The last thing the public needs right now is Republican legislators talking about going to war with public schools,” said Marisol Garcia, President of the Arizona Education Association.
The historic budget passed by Republicans and Democrats allocates more than $800 million to the annual base of public schools. Ironically, Livingston voted for the budget.
House Majority Leader Ben Toma originally attempted to tie school funding increases with a universal voucher expansion. After it became clear that was not possible, legislators decoupled the proposals into separate bills.
In the minds of Republican legislators, the two are still coupled together. They acted in bad faith.
Governor Doug Ducey could call for a special legislative session and ask lawmakers to lift the spending cap now, providing assurance to school finance officials and avoiding the kind of drama Livingston is alluding to. A spokesperson for Ducey reiterated to 12News on Wednesday that Ducey won’t comment on the possibility of a special session and won’t say whether he supports lifting the cap, even though it is a necessary step to make the budget he signed become reality.
You can fight back by voting these anti-public education Republican legislators out of office.