Gov. Hobbs Introduces Legislation To End School Choice In 2032

Gov. Hobbs Introduces Legislation To End School Choice In 2032

By Corinne Murdock |

Gov. Katie Hobbs has introduced legislation that would end the entirety of Arizona’s school choice program come 2032.

On Monday, Hobbs announced the release of the bill, part of a forthcoming package, to bring to heel and then end the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program. 

In the press release announcing the legislation, neither Hobbs nor Democratic leaders mentioned the provision ending the entire ESA Program: both the universal and special education components. The coalition characterized the legislation as containing accountability and transparency measures. 

As justification for the legislation, the governor repeated claims of misused ESA funding that have been debunked by Arizona Department of Education (ADE) officials.

“Arizonans deserve to know their taxpayer dollars are being spent giving Arizona children the education they deserve, not on luxury car driving lessons, ski trips, and water park passes,” said Hobbs. “We must bring accountability and transparency to the ESA program.”

The bill, SB1399, was introduced by Sen. Minority Leader Mitzi Epstein (D-LD12). Under the bill, the ESA Program would end on July 1, 2032 unless continued by an act of the legislature approved by the governor. 

The bill also would:

  • Require educators at ESA-funded schools to have a higher education; at least three years of teaching experience; and specialized skills, knowledge, or expertise related to the subject matter of instruction
  • Require fingerprinting and background checks for ESA-funded educators and tutors
  • Prohibit sales of items purchased using ESA funds
  • Require preapproval of transactions of $500 or more
  • Require the purchase of the least-expensive version of educational goods or services
  • Require ADE to disclose the legal rights waived by admission to the program
  • Require ADE to estimate the funds needed for the ESA program for the upcoming fiscal year
  • Implement additional performance and fiscal reporting requirements for ESA-funded schools
  • Require ESA-funded schools to adhere to outside individualized education programs or Section 504 plans
  • Establish annual audits of ESA-funded schools
  • Establish a legislative committee review of the ESA program to determine its economy and efficiency, achievements and shortcomings

Epstein also didn’t mention the bill’s total eradication of the ESA Program. Rather, the senator indicated that her issue with the ESA Program concerned its universalization. 

“The unaccountable government expansion of ESA vouchers has put our state’s financial security, and our students, at risk,” said Epstein. “These commonsense safeguards will be vitally important for giving Arizona children a safe and quality education, and bring the same accountability and oversight to ESAs that we expect for any taxpayer spending.”

Similarly, House Minority Leader Lupe Contreras (D-LD22) — anticipated to introduce mirror legislation soon — said that the legislation consisted of “basic standards” for transparency and accountability.

The governor put the legislature on notice of the forthcoming legislative package earlier this month.

The day after Hobbs dropped her legislation, ADE Superintendent Tom Horne released the latest data on the ESA Program. Horne reported a projected surplus of $28 million through the 2024 fiscal year, which ends in June. 

Citing the projected surplus, Horne denounced the accusations from Hobbs and Democratic lawmakers that the state’s budget woes were attributable to the ESA Program expansion.

“Whatever budget issues state lawmakers are facing this year, they have not been created by the ESA program or any other aspect of basic state aid for education,” said Horne. “The fact there is a surplus in basic state aid, including the ESA program, demonstrates our commitment to good financial stewardship.”

Matt Beienburg of the Goldwater Institute, a major proponent of the ESA Program, said that Hobbs’ proposal constituted “an all-out assault” on students and their families as well as a “government takeover” of private schools.

“Building off Gov. Hobbs’s recent proposal to rip away 50,000 ESA scholarship awards, this legislation goes even further and would terminate the entire ESA program—including for students with special needs—before thousands of these children even complete their studies,” said Beienburg. “This legislation would impose a government takeover of private school tuition rates and operational decisions, attempting to destroy private education and parental autonomy, forcing thousands of families back into a system they’ve desperately tried to escape.”

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

Lawmakers’ Reaction To Passage Of Prop 400 Mixed

Lawmakers’ Reaction To Passage Of Prop 400 Mixed

By Daniel Stefanksi |

Reaction was mixed to the news that the Arizona Legislature passed a Prop 400 compromise on Monday, after an agreement was forged with the Governor’s Office.

Republican Senate President Warren Petersen claimed victory after his chamber gave the proposal the green light, calling it “the most conservative transportation plan in our state’s history.” Petersen added, “The guardrails, taxpayer protections and funding allocations in the text of this bill reflect the priorities of voters, to reinvest their tax dollars in the transportation modes they use most.”

Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs was diplomatic in her statement, saying, “Today, bipartisan leaders invested in the future of Arizona families, businesses, and communities. The passage of the Prop 400 ballot measure will secure the economic future of our state and create hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs for Arizonans. I am glad we were able to put politics aside and do what is right for Arizona.”

Some legislative Democrats took the legislation’s approval to point political fingers at their Republican counterparts. Senate Democratic Leader Mitzi Epstein wrote, “As is customary, Republicans have waited until the very last minute to pass widely popular legislation that invests in the daily lives of Arizonans….Our state should not have had to wait until July 31st to see this measure, which has had legislative support since the start of session, get sent to the ballot. However, with the support of Arizonans cities and towns, I am proud to join my Democratic colleagues in delivering the key votes needed to send the extension of the regional transportation tax back to the voters of Maricopa County.”

Members of the Arizona Freedom Caucus were adamantly opposed to the bill since the weekend, when they appeared to have read a draft of the legislation. After Prop 400 passed, the Freedom Caucus tweeted, “Legislative conservatives near unanimously opposed this horrible bill. Conservative watchdog groups unanimously opposed it. The bill may have been better than the communists at @MAGregion’s horrific plan, but that’s a ludicrously low bar for success. This bill was antithetical to conservatism.”

Freshman Republican Representative Austin Smith, who has become one of the leading voices in the Arizona Freedom Caucus this legislative session, was one of the most-outspoken members against the bill since the weekend. He explained his vote on Twitter, posting, “I voted NO on the prop 400 transporation excise tax for Maricopa County. Taxpayer dollars are not ours to dish out haphazardly – especially to the tune of 20 BILLION dollars with potential consequences that ruin valley transportation.”

Some legislative Republicans, including Representative Jacqueline Parker, were already thinking about messaging against the ballot measure in hopes that voters could stop the plan from becoming finalized. Parker tweeted, “Now it’s up to the voters in Maricopa county to read the 47 page bill & see if it’s worth $20 Billion. I recommend looking at provisions on pages: 8, 15, 16, 18, 21, 22, 34, & 35, which absolutely allow plenty of leeway for cities to implement their road diet, & transit expansion.”

The breakthrough on the Prop 400 compromise took place after Governor Hobbs vetoed a Republican proposal in June. At that time, Hobbs stated, “I just vetoed the partisan Prop 400 bill that fails to adequately support Arizona’s economic growth and does nothing to attract new business or create good-paying jobs.”

In May, the governor created unrest over ongoing negotiations, allegedly sending out a tweet that highlighted her fight with Republicans at the Legislature at the same time she was meeting with Senate President Warren Petersen.

Petersen, one of the most conservative members in the state legislature, championed the importance of the bill, asserting that officials had “secured a good, responsible product for the citizens of Arizona to consider in 2024, giving voters the option to enhance critical infrastructure that our entire state relies upon.”

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

Democratic Legislators ‘Liked’ Assault on Trump Supporter Before Demanding GOP Senator’s Expulsion

Democratic Legislators ‘Liked’ Assault on Trump Supporter Before Demanding GOP Senator’s Expulsion

By Corinne Murdock |

Democratic leaders liked a tweet describing the assault on a supporter of former President Donald Trump. Specifically, two state legislators, one county election official, two high-level state employees, and three Democratic Party leaders of various levels. 

The Democratic legislators supported the violence-glorifying tweet from the same Planned Parenthood leader, Chris Love, who called for people to “break s**t” in response to the Supreme Court’s refusal to stop Texas’ abortion ban. Love tweeted to express her pleasure over her husband assaulting a Trump supporter last weekend during a pro-abortion rally. 

“My husband @MiQL got lost in the crowd and I had to send folks to find him. Instead of hanging in the tented area with the cool kids, he was organizing folks,” wrote Love. “He also body checked some dude in a ‘Blacks for Trump’ shirt. Swoon!”

The tweet and Democrats’ support occurred several days before they would demand the censure and expulsion of State Senator Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff) for alleging in since-deleted social media posts that federal agents were behind the Buffalo mass shooting. 

“Fed boy summer has started in Buffalo,” wrote Rogers. 

One of the Democratic legislators that liked Love’s tweet celebrating assault was State Senator Juan Mendez (D-Tempe), who’s been absent for a vast majority of the legislative session on excused absence. As AZ Free News reported earlier this week, State Senator T.J. Shope (R-Coolidge) requested an ethics investigation into Mendez’s absence.

State Representative Mitzi Epstein (D-Chandler) also liked the controversial tweet. Additionally, Pima County Recorder Gabriella Cázares-Kelly showed her support for Love’s celebration of the assault. 

The two state employees that liked the tweet were Allie Bones, assistant secretary of state to Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, and Tyler Kowch, constituent services manager at the Arizona Department of Education.

One of the more prominent Democratic Party leaders that liked Love’s tweet was Priya Sundareshan: state senate candidate for district 18, election integrity staffer with the Arizona Democratic Party, chairwoman of Asian American Pacific Islander Democrats in Arizona, and director of University of Arizona (UArizona) Natural Resource Use and Management Clinic.

The other two Democratic Party leaders to like the tweet were Missa Foy, chairwoman of Navajo County Democrats, and Judy Stahl, former congressional candidate and Democratic Women of the Prescott Area Chair.

Others who liked the tweet were those within academia and activist organizations.

There was Will Knight, former Maricopa County attorney candidate and Arizona State University (ASU) Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law adjunct professor; Rebecca Garelli, Red for Ed organizer with Arizona Educators United; Dr. Dawn Penich-Thacker, co-founder of Save Our Schools Arizona; and Bridget Sharpe, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Arizona State Director. 

Republican National Committee (RNC) leader Tyler Bowyer pointed out the Democratic state legislators’ support of social media posts endorsing violence, wondering why mainstream media hadn’t covered it initially. 

Bowyer predicted to conservative radio host James T. Harris on the “Conservative Circus” that the mainstream media’s lack of equal treatment when covering Democrats would lead to further divisiveness in the state and country. 

“We’re really playing with fire here. We don’t have a community today where we can allow Democrats just to hijack our communities, incite violence, and get away with it,” said Bowers. “This is the reason why nobody trusts the media anymore. People will figure this out, they will talk, there will be an uproar of good, normal people once they find this stuff out, and people will start turning on our local media.”

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