On Monday, the Arizona House awarded a proclamation to an illegal immigrant activist group for their advocacy concerning in-state tuition, mental health, and education for illegal immigrants. State Representatives Michelle Udall (R-Mesa), Joel John (R-Buckeye), and Diego Espinoza (D-Tolleson) introduced the proclamation, which thanked the group, Aliento, for serving those of “mixed-documented” backgrounds.
Udall thanked Aliento for its polite and consistent work with the legislature and those of various legal and illegal backgrounds.
Reyna Montoya, co-founder of Aliento and protected from deportation due to the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, celebrated the proclamation. Montoya founded Aliento in 2016 after experiencing “compounded trauma and education barriers” from growing up as a DACA recipient, or “Dreamer.” Montoya was 10 years old in 2003 when her mom smuggled her from Tijuana, Mexico, to Arizona.
Despite not knowing English in the 8th grade and not having proper identification like a Social Security number, Montoya was admitted to college and earned her bachelor degrees in political science and transborder studies from Arizona State University (ASU) — even being recognized as ASU’s “Most Outstanding Undergraduate Student” — and a master’s degree in secondary education, ultimately earning many more accolades and recognitions including the 2018 Forbes: 30 Under 30 for social entrepreneurism.
Last July, the Texas Southern District Court ruled that the Biden administration couldn’t approve new DACA applications. Judge Andrew Hanen, a Bush appointee, declared that Obama’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) when it created DACA.
DHS estimated around the time of Hanen’s ruling that over 825,000 individuals have benefited from DACA in all, with over 250,000 children who have at least one DACA parent. The latest available federal data estimated that there were over 640,700 active DACA recipients.
Those who were DACA eligible had to have come into the country before they were 16 years old; had to have resided in the country for five consecutive years; had to be attending school, graduated high school, obtained their GED, or be honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or Armed Forces; had not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, multiple misdemeanors; and wasn’t over 30 years old.
Last year, the legislature granted in-state tuition and financial aid to illegal immigrant students through SCR 1044, introduced by State Senator Paul Boyer (R-Glendale). The resolution overturned Prop 300, which voters approved in 2006 to block illegal immigrants from receiving in-state tuition rates and scholarships. The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed Prop 300 in a 2018 ruling.
Udall and John forced a vote on SCR 1044 by joining all House Democrats. They were later joined by Representatives David Cook (R-Globe) and Joanne Osborne (R-Goodyear). The remaining 13 Republicans opposed the resolution.
Udall cited the need for more working-class individuals as a reason for supporting SCR 1044. She also insisted that illegal immigrant children shouldn’t bear the brunt of their elders’ mistakes.
“We need more college-educated teachers, health care workers, lawyers, engineers and a host of other occupations,” stated Udall. “The youth this bill seeks to help shouldn’t be blamed or judged based on others’ actions. They were brought here as minors, as children.”
If the influence of mothers on last year’s elections served as any indicator for this year’s outcomes, certain Republican state legislators in Arizona may have a tough primary ahead.
Mothers have proven themselves a powerful political force. One significant example would concern the widespread credit they received for the Republican victory in last year’s gubernatorial race in deep-blue Virginia. Among those mothers were women that helped put Joe Biden in office nearly two years ago.
Yet, approval ratings and polls are showing that the Biden administration has alienated suburban female voters — especially mothers. The causes have been widely publicized, like when the Department of Justice (DOJ) pledged last October to investigate parents protesting schools’ controversial COVID-19 policies and curriculum. In Arizona and across the nation, the news caused an uproar among parents and school boards.
More recently, the alienation came from the worsening inflation and baby formula shortage. When Reuters interviewed 20 Phoenix women earlier this month, many expressed that these current issues were influencing their vote come fall.
The pressure of a slipping, once-reliable voter base hasn’t escaped leadership. On Tuesday, over two dozen current and former administrative officials, lawmakers, congressional aides, and other Democrats close to Biden informedNBC News that the president is “rattled” by falling approval ratings as well as a general lack of trust and confidence among voters. In particular, the president lost ground among suburban women — something that frustrated him.
The informants also revealed that Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, will likely leave after the midterms.
Arizona legislators aren’t exempt from the voter troubles plaguing Biden and the Democrats. After the pandemic hit, more Arizona mothers took a closer look at their schools and engaged in the state legislature, just like other mothers across the nation. They picked up on which legislators voted against their interests routinely, and vocalized their observations on social media and in rallies.
A recent contention between mothers and legislators occurred over curriculum transparency bills.
Mothers called out State Representative Joel John (R-Buckeye) for killing a bill that would’ve required schools to publish curriculum lists on their websites.
Last summer, John joined State Representatives Michell Udall (R-Mesa) and Joanne Osborne (R-Goodyear) to kill a school choice expansion amendment. The vote earned the ire of Arizona parents.
John, Udall, and Osborne’s voting records caused the Maricopa County Republican Committee to pass a resolution in January pledging to oppose their campaigns, identifying the three legislators as those opposed to parents’ interests.
“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,” read the resolution.
A month later, Udall and John killed a bill preventing bank discrimination against vendors or customers whose political affiliations or values rendered them low on a social credit scoring system. John claimed that no “real world examples” existed to justify the bill.
John, Udall, and Osborne aren’t the only ones who’ve stoked controversy. State Senator T.J. Shope (R-Coolidge) has a track record of voting against certain party issues, like the governor’s executive powers. He earned parents’ ire recently with a bill enabling a nonprofit to access their children’s vaccination data without their input.
Then there was a strike-everything amendment from State Representative Tim Dunn (R-Yuma) granting $30 million to the University of Arizona (UArizona) to study drip irrigation amid the worsening inflation crisis.
Additionally, State Senator Tyler Pace (R-Mesa) challenged parents with his initial opposition of a bill banning transgender surgeries for minors — he later flipped to support the ban, after reading on best practices concerning transgender children. That same week, he supported banning sexuallly explicit material from K-12 classrooms.
Other bills from last year’s legislative session perpetuate controversy.
There was HB2161, which would have established a new small business tax. The legislation would’ve required hotels and other transient lodging businesses to pay up to $5 per room per night to fund tourism promotion. It passed in the House with bipartisan support — John, Osborne, Udall, and Dunn joined State Representatives David Cook (R-Globe), Regina Cobb (R-Kingman), Steve Kaiser (R-Phoenix), John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), Becky Nutt (R-Clifton), Jeff Weninger (R-Chandler), Justin Wilmeth (R-Phoenix), and House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa). Few Democrats opposed the bill: State Representatives Melody Hernandez (D-Tempe) and Athena Salman (D-Tempe).
Then last May, there was Cook, Udall, John, and Osborne in the House and State Senator Paul Boyer (R-Glendale) who joined Shope and Pace to approve SCR1044, which put tuition for illegal immigrants on the upcoming ballot.
One parent, Alejandro Sandoval, summarized to AZ Free News parents’ sentiments on the GOP elected officials that they felt undermined their interests.
“I would like to ask these counterfeit conservatives who continue to vote Democrat: how much are they paying you? Because when it comes to school choice and election integrity, their virtues go out the window,” said Sandoval. “And I am delighted that Michelle Udall has finally decided to exit the arena. It was such a bittersweet moment with President Trump because he unearthed all these serpents to show their true colors. Why are they against our ‘freedom of choice,’ because in my eyes they’re communists holding us back and trying to destroy our volition.”
Two House Republicans voted against a bill to prevent banks from discriminating against vendors or customers for their political affiliations or values determined by a social credit score. HB2656 failed 28-31; the bill sponsor, State Representative Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) voted against the bill alongside two of his Republican colleagues with track records for voting against bills supporting Republican Party values: State Representative Joel John (R-Buckeye) and State Representative Michelle Udall (R-Mesa). Hoffman changed his vote in order to file a motion to reconsider the bill within 14 days’ time, which was approved.
John’s primary argument for not supporting the bill concerned the fact that he doesn’t engage in politics outside of the legislature, and that he doesn’t know of any real examples of banks discriminating against individuals for their affiliations or values. In doing so, John criticized his cousin, who reportedly called John to urge him to support the bill.
“I’ve asked the sponsor to give me real world examples of why this bill is needed, and I didn’t get that. I even got a call from my cousin, who doesn’t live in my district, telling me that this bill is needed and to pass it right now and I said ‘why is it a problem man? Help me understand,’” said John. “For those of us who happen to be in this chamber, but don’t live, eat, and breathe politics 24/7, when I’m not in this chamber I’m out in a remote area working on some irrigation project, but my cousin said this is going to negatively affect farmers. This is going to affect our community, and I said, ‘Oh wow. Would you please do me a favor and talk to some of those guys as to why this is a problem. That would really help me. So, I never did hear back.”
One Republican representative rebutted to John’s assertion that there weren’t any real-world examples of this discrimination occurring in Arizona. State Representative Jeff Weninger (R-Chandler) relayed how multiple gun vendors statewide informed him that banks and financial services like Paypal won’t facilitate credit card transactions for items like guns due to their policies.
“In my points, I’m not going to throw my cousin under the bus like somebody just did a minute ago,” said Weninger. “[Banking and other financial transaction discrimination] is something that is gaining steam and everywhere I go and talk to people, more and more people are knowing about it. But pretty soon it could be too late and have already run us over as a state.”
Hoffman explained that his bill was prompted by the rise of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG): an enforcement method for authoritarianism advocated heavily by powerful globalist organizations like the World Economic Forum (WEF). The ESG concept is a part of a movement called “The Great Reset:” a goal to instill “stakeholder capitalism,” aka corporatism, a fascist rule globally. Hoffman explained that the ESG factor worked as a social credit score.
“It is an inside-outside strategy designed to force companies and individuals to adopt a woke and oftentimes globalist agenda primarily embraced by those in the ruling class. They do this by assigning an ESG score or sometimes known as a ‘social impact criteria score,’” said Hoffman.
Hoffman added that the legislation was a moral imperative, citing the Canadian government freezing protestors’ bank accounts and financial apps in order to end their Freedom Convoy.
“Think it couldn’t happen in America? Think again. The top five banks in the US — the very same banks that US taxpayers bailed out in 2009 to the tune of 30 trillion dollars — have all admitted to using ESG scores to make decisions about customers. This means that if they deem your small business isn’t green enough, woke enough, or compliant enough, they’ll lower your ESG score which could hurt or eliminate your ability to access banking services, revolving capital, financing, and much more,” said Hoffman. “ESG discrimination is a freight train barreling down the tracks at the American people and it’s effects will be devastating, which is why I’m fighting like hell to protect the people of Arizona and stop this disgusting, anti-American practice dead in its tracks.”
This isn’t the first issue in which John and Udall didn’t agree with their fellow Republicans. Earlier this month, John voted with Democrats attempting to kill a bill expanding parental rights.
John and Udall are also part of the Republican trio that killed a bill to expand school choice last year. Instead, John supported a bill this session to require additional testing requirements to access school choice, backed by the other two trio members: Udall and Joanne Osborne (R-Goodyear).
Last year, John voted against a bill to require disclosure of personal information on early ballot affidavits. He and Udall also voted alongside House Democrats to force a vote on a resolution allowing illegal immigrants who’ve resided in Arizona at least two years and graduated from an Arizona high school to receive in-state tuition. That measure will appear on the ballot this November.
In a party-line vote on Wednesday, the Arizona Senate approved a bill to expand the state’s K-12 school choice scholarships: the Arizona Equal Opportunity Education Act.
SB1657 expands Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program eligibility by allowing more classifications of students to participate. That includes those with: disabilities identified by public school systems in other states; a parent that is a veteran, first responder, or full-time health professional; income that qualifies for federal free and reduced-price lunch programs; a household that receives benefits from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or Section 8 Public Housing Assistance; participation in federal Title I services for low-income students under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA); residence in the attendance boundary of a school that qualifies for schoolwide Title I Program funding under ESSA or whose governing board submitted a plan to the School Facilities Oversight Board within the last two years requesting additional construction or funding due to exceeding existing capacity; or current or past participation in the Education Recovery Benefit Program, Open for Learning Recovery Benefit Program, or any successor state grant program. It also would entitle participating children to access Classroom Site Fund (CSF) dollars.
Additionally, permissible ESA expenditures would include public transportation services; educational devices such as calculators, laptops, telescopes, microscopes, and printers; and consumable educational supplies like paper, pens, and markers. The legislation also ensures that school districts cover expenses for independent educational evaluation from qualified examiners obtained by parents, like psychiatrists.
American Federation for Children (AFC) Arizona State Director Steve Smith asserted on “The Conservative Circus” that the legislation marked the largest expansion of school choice in state history. Smith cited polling numbers that 78 percent of minorities in Arizona support school choice.
“I’m still trying to figure out why Democrats voted against this,” remarked Smith. “We’re talking about the kids that need the help the most, the Democrats — who I’m told over and over again are always helping the downtrodden — continue to vote no.”
State Senator Paul Boyer (R-Glendale), the bill sponsor, argued in last week’s Senate Education Committee that opposition to the bill concerning a reduction in public school spending was reducing children to dollar signs. He cited that Arizona has invested over $8.6 billion into public education since 2016, and that the state set an all-time record with its latest per-pupil spending: well over $14,000.
“I can’t tell a parent, ‘Sorry, we haven’t done enough on the funding side,’ when we really have. And at one point we have to say, we have to let every child who wants to go to the school of their choice, they should have that opportunity, too,” said Boyer.
Boyer insisted that the greater issue at hand was allowing parents to choose the best educational options for their child.
As AZ Free News reported, the legislation earned the backing of NFL Alumni Association chaplain and Phoenix-based pastor Drew Anderson; he credited school choice for his escape from the school-to-prison pipeline. Anderson insisted that school choice defined a “civil rights movement of our era.”
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.