By Corinne Murdock |
Governor-elect Katie Hobbs reaffirmed that she will hold to her campaign promise to abolish Arizona’s universal school choice program.
Hobbs issued the remarks last week in an interview with Arizona PBS, about two weeks after appointing two longtime teachers’ union lobbyists to her transition team. Marisol Garcia is a longtime lobbyist for and the current president of the Arizona Education Association (AEA); Stephanie Parra was a former lobbyist for the AEA, is a registered lobbyist for her nonprofit “All in Education,” and serves as a Phoenix Union High School District board member.
“I can tell you that the voucher scheme that we have set up is going to end up as an Alt-Fuels 2.0,” stated Hobbs. “It’s going to bust our budget. We can’t afford to do more.”
In a video shared within an AEA meeting reviewing the upcoming legislative session on Wednesday, Hobbs pledged to be the biggest ally of public schools in the state’s history.
“I’m ready to get to work as the most pro-public education governor in Arizona,” said Hobbs.
Garcia expressed confidence that Hobbs would be an ally to their teachers’ union. She also said that she and the AEA were completely against the state’s school choice program, the Empowerment Savings Account (ESA) Program.
“We have always been against any sort of vouchers, not just expansion but vouchers in essence,” said Garcia.
In September, Garcia stated that it wasn’t possible to support both public schools and private schools when it comes to funding.
“Funding AZ public schools & then being pro private schools vouchers is hypocritical,” wrote Garcia. “Union members have ALWAYS been against vouchers. They hurt our communities & funnel tax payer $ to private companies.”
Hobbs has been forthright about her opposition to universal school choice. Her education plan published through her campaign revealed that she would scale back the program to bolster public school funding.
Hobbs declared that universal school choice was an “attack” on public schools, reflecting an intent to eventually “do away with” them. Hobbs also claimed that the ESA Program lacked any accountability and oversight.
About 32,000 children applied for the ESA Program, according to the Arizona Department of Education. Students may qualify for up to $6,500 each — totaling about $208 million.
Save Our Schools Arizona (SOSAZ), an activist group opposed to universal ESAs, attempted to reverse the universalization through a ballot measure. In September, SOSAZ overreported its signature count to qualify for the ballot — something hawkeyed pro-school choice parents discovered immediately. However, Hobbs delayed counting the signatures for about five days.