Gov. Hobbs Revokes $50 Million In ‘Illegal And Invalid’ School Choice Funds

May 26, 2023

By Corinne Murdock |

Gov. Katie Hobbs revoked $50 million in school choice funding awarded by her predecessor, Doug Ducey, calling it “illegal and invalid.”

The funds were used for day-long Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) Program kindergarten. Hobbs said that this represented unequal treatment of ESA versus non-ESA students, since the state only funds half-day kindergarten for public school students. 

“Illegally giving $50 million to private schools while failing to properly invest in public education is just one egregious example of the previous administration’s blatant disregard for public school students,” said Hobbs. “I will always fight to protect our public schools and work to give every Arizona student the education they deserve. Today, we averted a violation of federal law and the State Constitution. In my administration, we are committed to deploying federal funds lawfully and equitably.”

Hobbs claimed the $50 million grant violated multiple provisions of the Arizona Constitution concerning equal protection, the gift clause, and the maintenance of public schools. The governor also claimed that the grant conflicted with terms set by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in its COVID-19 emergency funding because the grant didn’t address educational disparities it purported to address. 

Hobbs said her office plans to reallocate the $50 million elsewhere, though the governor hasn’t publicly announced where. She said she delivered notice to the treasurer’s office for next steps.

In response, Treasurer Kimberly Yee criticized Hobbs’ move as “politically driven and belligerent,” and noted that she had no prior notice of Hobbs’ intent to withdraw the funding until she, like the rest of the public, learned of Wednesday’s press release. Yee also disclosed that her legal team was looking into the legality of Hobbs’ actions.

“As has become the norm for this governor, my office first learned of her action through a press release prior to receiving the letter, and we have yet to receive any communication from the Governor or her team on this matter other than the letter. Our legal team is currently reviewing the lawfulness of the governor’s move and determining next steps,” said Yee. 

Yee also claimed that Hobbs’ actions reflected a disregard for educational freedom. 

“It is clear Governor Hobbs does not care about what is best for Arizona kids or respect the rights of parents to determine the best environment to educate their child,” said Yee. “Instead, she is using these children as pawns in a desperate and transparent attempt to win back support from union bosses and her ultra-progressive base. Educational choice is the civil rights issue of our time, and unfortunately, Governor Hobbs thinks she knows better than parents. I fundamentally disagree, and so do Arizona families.”

Daniel Scarpinato, former chief of staff to Ducey and former national press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), claimed that Hobbs’ true motive was to improve her publicity over other statewide Democratic officials.

“The real story: Katie Hobbs is kowtowing to her far-left base because other statewide Dems are getting way more publicity than her,” stated Scarpinato. “First she canceled summer school. Now she’s against kindergarten. Hobbs’ record is stacking up, and it’s one that hurts real kids. That’s on her.”

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

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