By Corinne Murdock |
Certain House Republicans have decided to shift from the defensive to the offensive concerning their opposition to school choice as proposed by the rest of their party.
Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate and State Representative Michelle Udall (R-Mesa) introduced HB2185, a bill to require annual standardized testing for Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) recipients from grades 3-12. It would also require schools to post an aggregate of the test scores on their website, organized by grade level. The bill would exempt students with disabilities. State Representatives Joel John (R-Buckeye) and Joanne Osborne (R-Goodyear) signed on as cosponsors.
The bill continues the three legislators’ arguments that ESAs needed greater oversight. Udall stated last October that she’s not opposed to school choice outright if it comes with “appropriate accountability measures.” Udall explained that charter schools initially had the same problems that plague certain schools receiving ESAs currently.
“The issue I have with ESAs is the lack of accountability. When I tried speaking to proponents about appropriate accountability, they walked away from the conversation (on multiple occasions),” tweeted Udall. “When we first started charter schools, we had the same problem. The lack of accountability led to subpar education for many. We had to add accountability over the years. Our students can’t afford to repeat that mistake again with private schools that have even less accountability. Children at subpar public schools (D/F letter grades) already have access to ESAs. And when I submitted a proposal with some modest accountability and a restriction that children eligible for the expansion could only use ESAs to attend high achieving schools, they walked away.”
Udall’s latest bill was assigned to the House Education Committee, but hasn’t been given a date for review.
Last December, there were talks that the Maricopa County Republican Party would censure Udall, John, and Osborne for voting against State Representative Shawnna Bolick’s (R-Phoenix) expansion of the ESA program as part of the summer budget bill. The party passed the resolution to oppose the three legislators in their campaigns — “In Support of Parental Involvement and Choice in Education,” introduced by former State Senate President Russell Pearce — with nine votes in favor, one against, and one abstention. The following is the text of Pearce’s resolution:
“Whereas Republicans, like most Americans, believe that parents, not bureaucrats, should be making decisions for their children’s education; Whereas it is a core conservative belief that the people who matter most in our schools are our students and our teachers, even though liberals believe it is the administrators, diversity training officers, and vaccine mandate supervisors; and
Whereas what remains of the old public school monopoly continues to fight to obstruct efforts to
expand school choice in Arizona, because they are desperate to hang on to as much money and control as they can for as long as possible; and Whereas today’s Democrat Party is targeting parents and has weaponized the Department of Justice to pursue parents who oppose radical curriculum like Critical Race Theory; and Whereas Arizona parents know what is best for their children and deserve as many education options as possible; now, therefore, be it Resolved, that the Maricopa County Republican Party remains 100% committed to expanding
school choice options for students and parents; and further be it Resolved, that the Maricopa County Republican Party encourages parents to rise up, run for school board offices, and make their voices heard, and that the Maricopa County Republican Party will support those efforts whenever possible; and further be it Resolved, that the Maricopa County Republican Party calls attention to, and opposes Republicans who campaign as conservatives while voting against school choice and against the best interests of students and parents – specifically Representatives Joanne Osborne, Michelle Udall, and Joel John.”
The party also opted to pass a resolution to hold Udall accountable for her voting record.
Udall aligns neatly with her party on other school-related issues: opposition to masking and vaccination mandates, and critical race theory, to name a few. On the topic of school choice, however, Udall disagrees, coming from the perspective of an educator and candidate for the state’s superintendent of education.
Udall has also supported efforts to make public schools more flexible for students’ unique needs.