A group of parents will converge at the state capitol on Tuesday to protest Gov. Katie Hobbs’ proposed budget cuts to the school choice scholarship program.
“We’re not calling for a repeal of the entire program, we’re just calling for a repeal of the universal expansion,” Hobbs claimed in an interview on Fox News Sunday.
Last year, the state expanded school choice under Gov. Doug Ducey to make educations savings accounts (ESAs) available to all students. Arizona was the first state to offer universal school choice.
However, Hobbs claims school choice is taking money away from “underfunded” public schools.
The ESA program gives each student $7,000, according to the Goldwater Institute, while the average funding per pupil for public schools in Arizona is $8,733.
“Thank God that last year the Republican majority passed the universal ESA program,” said Sen. Jake Hoffman, a Republican who backed the expansion. “Thank God that we gave parents, students and families all across the state an escape hatch.”
Becky Greene, a Mesa mom of five who homeschools all her children, will be protesting Hobb’s proposed cuts, according to local ABC15.
“Today’s youth are tomorrow’s adults and tomorrow’s contributors and citizens in our society. So, it makes perfect sense that we would have a taxation program that then funnels money to education,” said Greene.
“The question is just, is the public-school model the only way to educate children, and should children only have access to that by being in that model?” she asked.
Hobbs herself attended private school and told Fox News that the decision her family made was difficult and there were times she was on food stamps.
Goldwater estimates 30,000 students would be affected by the proposed cuts, though Hobbs lacks the executive authority to make them. Republicans have narrow majorities in both chambers of the state legislature which could protect the programs for now.
“Arizona families should take heart that thanks to the rule of law, the statutory protections of the ESA program mean these families will continue to be fully funded going forward,” wrote Matt Beienburg, director of education policy at Goldwater.
“But they should also take note and remember who is fighting for – or against – them.”