Save Our Schools Arizona did it. With about an extra 23,000 signatures, the organization and their pro-public education allies submitted 141, 714 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office to halt the Ducey-Republican universal voucher empowerment scholarship account law from going into effect.
It should be noted, that per the Arizona Department of Education, 76 percent of the Universal Empowerment Scholarship Account Applications, as of September 20, 2022, have been submitted by families whose children have not set one foot in traditional or charter public schools.
This law is nothing but a disguised tax cut for the rich and a way for religious, extreme right (like Charlie Kirk’s Turning Points,) and charlatan-hucksters (like the ones from Snowflake, Superintendent Kathy Hoffman revealed, fleeced families of autistic children) to take advantage of the desperate, the poor and middle-class families hard earnings with no accountability strings attached and no obligation to enroll any child that wants to join their school.
In a statement from Beth Lewis (and repeated in the video link above,) Save Our Schools Arizona and its supporters celebrated the record gathering of signatures to halt the voucher expansion. It said:
“141,714 voters have made their voices loud and clear – they have repudiated the schemes of Ducey & the Republican-led state legislature that continually work to defund our public schools in service to special interests. AZ voters will now be able to decide–once and for all–whether their tax dollars should go into private pockets with no academic or financial accountability.
This historic success represents more volunteer signatures than have ever been collected by a citizens’ referendum and underscores the unwavering support Arizona voters have for our community public schools. This number would be significantly higher if Gov. Ducey had not deliberately waited 10 full days to sign the bill, robbing voters of their constitutional right to oppose this ruinous bill.
“Today – we put on hold the anti-public education, anti-parent, anti-student agenda forced into our state by extremists,” said Raquel Mamani, educator and parent. “We the people have spoken, and we demand fully, equitably funded schools in every neighborhood for every child. The people of Arizona will now have the opportunity to reject private school voucher expansion once and for all, thanks to the tireless dedication of thousands of incredible volunteers statewide.”
These signatures come from all 15 Arizona counties, representing all walks of life, all political stripes, and all beliefs. They agree on one thing – strong public schools make Arizona a strong state. Strong public schools develop our economy, create our future workforce, and make our communities happier, safer, and more connected. Well-resourced public schools give ALL Arizona children the opportunity to thrive and to choose their futures. Today is an incredible victory for all 1 million Arizona children whose families have chosen their local public district and charter schools.
“Make no mistake – this battle is not over. First, we must dedicate ourselves to electing pro-public education candidates up and down the ballot this Nov. 8th. Arizona – we must stop electing extremists who drive wedges into our communities, ignore the will of our voters, and rob funding from our children,” said Nicky Indicavitch, parent and State Outreach Director for Save Our Schools Arizona.
We must work to elect a state government of the people, by the people, and for the people of Arizona in November. One that invests, rather than steals, from Arizona kids and families. One that is committed to reducing class sizes, retaining quality educators, and providing opportunities to every child, in every school, and in every community.”
Nicky Indicavitch is right.
The battle is not over.
Proponents of voucher expansion will very probably launch judicial challenges to the submitted signatures and their allies on the Arizona State Supreme Court. After what they did to the Fair Elections Initiative, they are probably salivating to hear the challenges from their plutocratic voucher-supporting friends.
Expect battles in the State Legislature from Republicans to possibly stall the waiving of the Aggregate Expenditure Limit that would fully fund public schools in order to squeeze some sort of deal to allow voucher expansion.
That is why it is vital, as Ms. Lewis and Ms. Indicavitch said, to elect legislators this November that will put the poor and middle-class children first and fully fund public schools.
There is a plan being disseminated by Arizona Legislators Mitzi Epstein, Christine Marsh, Jennifer Pawlik, and Judy Schweibert called The Plan to Invest in Arizona’s Children that calls for:
- Removing the AEL.
- Fully funding public schools.
- Paying teachers what they are worth.
- Funding full-day kindergarten.
- Expanding funds for counseling.
- Reducing class sizes.
- Halting unaccountable voucher expansion.
The pro-public education candidates that support these goals are the ones voters need to give their support to in 46 days on November 8, 2022.
It is also paramount to fight any challenge to what Save Our Schools Arizona and their allies accomplished today and let the people decide in 2024 what to do with Universal Voucher Empowerment Account Expansion.