In 2018, 60% of voters — 1.5 million people — said “no” expansion of the Empowerment Scholarship Awards (ESA) at the ballot box. In 2020, 1.7 million voters said “yes” to Prop 208, which provides dedicated funding for public education by requiring Arizona’s 1% to pay their fair share toward public education. Ever since that November 2020 vote, republican legislators have been on a path to neutralize prop 208 and featherbed Arizona’s wealthiest residents.￼
Today in Ways and Means, we debated SB1452, yet another attack on public education. SB1452 Is another dramatic expansion of the Empowerment Scholarship Awards program. It would triple the number of students available to receive an ESA but does not give a dime to the department of education to run a dramatically expanded program.￼ Yes, you heard that right. Republicans are pushing for a bill that goes against the will of the voters in 2018.
In 2017, when Republicans passed the last big expansion of the ESA program, they purposefully built in no evaluation. Parents would get roughly $5000 per year per child, and they could spend it however they wanted because of course “parents know best.￼” Several times during the testimony, Senator Boyer said expansion if ESA (against the will of the voters) would be a “life line” for students and would help them improve achievement. Since there is no evaluation of the ESA program and no evaluation a crossed all students in the state of Arizona, he has no basis in his claim that this would be a lifeline and would improve achievement. That is a theory we have no data to prove that.￼ Boyer also referred to a nationwide survey of 600 people￼ who said they liked school choice. In my opinion, Arizona voters￼ already voiced their opinions in 2018 and 2020 when they said NO to expansion of school vouchers and YES to dedicated public education funding.
UPDATE: As of April 21, 2021, this bill passed the Senate on a party line vote, passed the House Ways and Means Committee but is stalled in House Rules.