By Daniel Stefanski |
The Chairman of the House Education Committee is sponsoring a bill designed to increase awareness about school choice in Arizona, but Democrats remain in opposition to any policies that inform parents about their options to educate their children.
Representative Beverly Pingerelli introduced HB 2539, which “creates the Arizona School Choice Division within the State Board of Education, and outlines its duties and appropriates monies and FTEs (full-time employees) to the Division,” according to the overview provided by the Arizona House of Representatives.
Among other provisions of the bill, HB 2539 “directs the Division to implement a public awareness program about students’ abilities to choose any public schools and resources to explain school choice options;” and it “mandates the Division develop single-page informational pamphlets that can be accessed in physical and digital formats to educate parents on the available school choice options for students.” The legislation also “directs the Division to notify ADE if a charter school or school district that operates a D or F letter grade school submits, fails to submit or is late to submit compliance evidence within 60 days of letter grade assignment.”
In an exclusive interview with AZ Free News, Representative Pingerelli explained why she introduced this legislation: “Parents hold schools accountable in Arizona with school choice. But parents need transparency of school outcomes, and they need to be aware of their rights. The purpose of HB2539 is to ensure more parents are aware of ALL their choices. This bill requires that schools not only explain to their parents why and how they are failing to their parents if they have a D or F rating, but how they will improve their school. It relieves schools of the current burden of mailing the entire community a post-card mailer, which currently has almost no information on it. It is our job to ensure parents are informed. Finally, there are hundreds of new Arizonans arriving daily who likely are not experts in our education laws. We currently make no effort to help them. At the cost of an email, we can fix that.”
Last month, the bill passed both the House Education and House Rules Committee. The vote in the Education Committee was split across party lines, 6-4. All eight members of the Rules Committee voted in favor of HB 2539, pushing it one step closer to a vote before the entire House body.
Representatives from the Arizona School Administrators Association, Arizona Education Association, and Save Our Schools Arizona signed in against this bill as it went through the House committee process.
Over the past two sessions, many of the most contentious policy battles between Republicans and Democrats have been over the issue of school choice and providing more control and transparency to parents when it comes to their children’s education. Last year, after numerous debates between passionate members on both sides, the Arizona Legislature passed a historic expansion of the Education Savings Accounts program (ESA), which then-Governor Doug Ducey signed into law. This universal expansion was the first of its kind in the nation and was enacted with partisan votes in both chambers of the Arizona Legislature.
An online account advocating against passage of the bill, tweeted, “The not-too-hidden goal of denigrating public schools is to weaken support for teachers and their unions, and to redirect funds into school vouchers and other programs that pummel public education even further.”
HB 2539 now awaits its up-or-down vote in the full Arizona House of Representatives.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.