Universal school choice proponents not sold Hobbs’ budget proposal



(The Center Square) – Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs’ released her budget proposal on Friday afternoon, and proponents of the universal Empowerment Scholarship Account program are critical of some of their methods to cut back on costs as the state faces a deficit.

One proposal suggested by the governor’s office is to require 100 days in a public school for students in order to be eligible to use ESA funds. According to the governor’s office, they estimate that this would not result in a surge in public school attendance, since they anticipate that parents would be able to afford private school or other alternative education methods in the first place.

However, ESA advocates are not sold on the administration’s reasoning.

“Governor Hobbs has made it perfectly clear that she wants to dismantle the ESA program at any cost. She wants to send tens of thousands of kids back to public school for 100 days. This would cause unbelievable educational chaos and trauma for Arizona children,” Jenny Clark, founder of Love Your School, told The Center Square in a statement.

“Her priorities are misguided and detrimental to our already struggling students. No Thanks, Governor Hobbs!” Clark added.

Other advocates also criticized the governor’s proposal to scrap the School Tuition Organization tax credit as a way to save money in the long term. STO is considered a way to “fund scholarships for students to attend qualified private schools located in Arizona,” according to the Arizona Department of Revenue website.

“The ESA and Tax Credit Scholarship programs are extremely popular with families and allow kids to thrive in an educational setting that meets their unique needs,” Shannon Pahls, public affairs director, “yes. every kid,” said in a statement.

Hobbs’ ideas align largely with proposals by Democrats in the Legislature, who are hoping to reign in the program.

“Well, I know that some of the provisions do have at least some bipartisan support. I know that there is at least some interest across the aisle to implement some kind of fingerprinting for adults in schools that are accepting ESA dollars,” Sen. Christine Marsh, D-Phoenix, said, The Center Square reported last week.

In the governor’s state of the state, she said more “accountability and transparency” is needed in the program.

“We have seen a steady stream of news coverage around unacceptable and sometimes downright outrageous use of taxpayer money under this program, including water park admissions, ski passes, and luxury car driving lessons,” Hobbs said.

“It is our responsibility as stewards of this state to put in place guardrails to ensure taxpayer dollars dedicated to education are used properly. Without these guardrails, waste, fraud, and abuse take root and thrive,” the governor continued.

Besides education, the governor’s budget proposal is poised to face a tough road ahead with a Republican-led Legislature, The Center Square reported Friday.

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