By Corinne Murdock |
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs, a product of private schools, revealed on Monday that she plans to reverse Arizona’s universal school choice if elected.
Hobbs appropriated pro-school choice phrasing to describe her 13-page anti-school choice plan. She omitted her private school attendance from the plan.
“Zip code shouldn’t determine the quality of public education our Arizona students receive,” wrote Hobbs. “As governor, I will always fight for students, teachers, and parents to have the resources they need to succeed.”
In 1988, Hobbs graduated from Seton Catholic Preparatory High School, a private high school in Chandler. As one of the most expensive private schools in the state, SCP tuition sits around $17,700 currently, with a discounted rate for proven Catholic families of $13,300.
In her education plan, Hobbs called the funds from Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) Program “vouchers.” However, the ESA Program funds are not “vouchers” — they are education scholarship accounts. Vouchers may only be used at private schools, whereas education scholarship account funds may be used for a greater variety of educational needs, such as tutoring.
“Vouchers should not have been expanded to provide an unaccountable means of enriching private schools and defunding our local public schools,” reads the plan.
In a 2019 interview celebrating her alma mater’s 65th anniversary, Hobbs told Gilbert Sun News that attending a small private school gave her the positive experience of a more intimate, tailored learning experience, such as her teachers encouraging her to discover timeless truths in classic literature.
“It really felt like a family,” said Hobbs. “You really had a chance to get to know the people that you went to school with.”
AZ Free News asked Hobbs’ campaign whether Hobbs’ children have attended any private schools. They didn’t respond by press time.
Both of Hobbs’ children attended Arizona School for the Arts, a charter school.
Hobbs’ plan also seeks to eliminate the aggregate expenditure limit (AEL). The AEL limits K-12 public schools’ expenditures every year based on the calculation of the aggregate expenditure of all districts, adjusted for student counts and inflation. The state legislature increased the AEL this past session so that schools could spend their budgets in full.
The rest of Hobbs’ education plan pledges to establish free preschool and kindergarten, especially for low-income and minority families; reduce child care costs and increase options; increase teacher pay by up to $14,000 to match the national average; reduce teacher health care costs; increase fundings for school renovations; restore the special education cost study; increase funding for special needs care; and nearly-free, if not totally free, college education for students that live in state — whether they’re American residents or illegal immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) rule.
Further, Hobbs’ pledged to increase funding to the Arizona Teachers Academy to grow enrollment; increase school funds to hire more mental health professionals and social workers; establish permanent funding for Northern Arizona University’s Teacher Residency Program; increase funding to the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) to establish new STEM grants and scholarships, particularly for women and “people of color”; expand Advanced Placement (AP) and dual enrollment programs to all schools; establish a refundable tax credit for career and technical education pursuits; fund start-up medical program costs; and establish health care training programs.
Additionally, Hobbs promised to increase oversight of charter schools through increased funding to the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools and the Auditor General. She also pledged to require charter schools to participate in the Auditor General’s annual classroom spending report, prohibit charter schools from making a profit from the sales of land and buildings, and publicize charter corporate boards through their inclusion in open meeting and public records laws.
Absent from Hobbs’ plan was any mention of additional funding for homeschooling families. Hobbs didn’t respond to our questions about that by press time, either.