Our Public Schools Breathe a Bit Easier….For Now  

Original article by Gabe Acosta

Volunteers and activists with Save Our Schools delivered 111,540 signatures to the AZ Secretary of State in hopes of stopping SB 1431, Arizona’s school-voucher law. If they are successful, the decision to implement the school-voucher programs will be put in the hands of voters this November.

If enacted, SB 1431 would be one of the most expansive school-voucher laws in the United States. This bill would not levy new taxes to pay for the expanded voucher program. This has led critics of the bill to point out that it would drain money from our school system. The money to finance this program comes directly from public school tax dollars & it would dramatically reduce money funding our public school students. This bill has created a lot of controversy over the idea that this would mainly benefit richer families at the expense of poorer families. If a wealthy family was already paying for private school for their children this program would subsidize the cost of that expense. However, for poorer families, the voucher might still not be enough to actually afford private schooling nor does it provide transportation. If a family is given a $5,000 voucher for a private school that costs $15,000, they would still have no choice but to send their children to public school. Because of this, the benefit of the program would disproportionately benefit richer families using funds from the public schools that poorer families attend…and in turn deplete the funds that each school needs to operate.

That this bill would drain money from our public school systems was the rallying cry for the groups of volunteers that have pushed for this referendum.  Arizona public schools are already critically underfunded. Arizona ranks 48 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia when it comes to funding for elementary, middle, and high school students, according to 2015 Census Bureau data.

The group, Save Our Schools Arizona was able to gather well over the 75,321 signatures needed so the school voucher law, which would have taken effect on Wednesday, has been postponed until the Secretary of State verifies all the signatures.

In a surprisingly last minute move, the Secretary of State’s office has allowed voucher ‘supporters’ to oversee the signature validation process. This prompted Save Our Schools AZ to reach out to their volunteers to also oversee the process. Other opponents of the referendum have been quick to act. Allies of Gov. Ducey, Betsy Devos and the Koch Brothers have been working to interrupt and derail the petition signature verification process.

“Cue Tom Jenney, Arizona director of Americans for Prosperity, which is funded by David and Charles Koch…. “URGENT! All hands on deck! This is NOT a drill. This is real.

“Starting TOMORROW — Thursday, August 10 — and continuing on Friday and Saturday, AFP-Arizona and our friends in the school choice coalition need volunteers to help protect Arizona children and their educational opportunities. We must stop the union effort to repeal the recently-passed expansion of AZ’s education savings account program. We need volunteers show up for a few hours and help us verify signature petitions.”” – Laurie Roberts, http://www.azcentral.com

It is worth noting that SOS AZ received no funding from Unions or the Democratic Party.

In addition, Debbie Lesko (R-21), the author of the bill, has also been working to undermine the referendum effort.

Lesko has said if SOS Arizona gets the required number of signatures validated, she’ll consider repealing and replacing the law so there would be no law to refer to the November 2018 ballot. If that happened, she could ask her colleagues to pass a new, slightly varied voucher expansion law next legislative session, though she says she’s not making any moves until she knows if SOS Arizona collects the signatures it needs. – Molly Longman, http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com

The secretary of state will let SOS Arizona know within a few months whether its referendum was valid and successful. For right now the citizens of AZ have spoken. They will fight to support AZ Public Schools.

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