Public school advocates, Democratic lawmakers at odds with Hobbs over budget deal, want cap on ESAs

Published: Tuesday, May 9, 2023 - 1:11pm
Updated: Tuesday, May 9, 2023 - 1:52pm
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Public school advocates and Democratic lawmakers are at odds with Gov. Katie Hobbs over an nearly $18 billion budget deal she struck with legislative Republicans.

That’s because it doesn’t cap growth of the state’s universal school voucher program.

More than 55,000 students are now using Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. 

That means the voucher program is almost as large as Mesa Public Schools, the largest public school district in Arizona, which serves more than 58,000 students.

Save Our Schools Arizona and a coalition of public school advocates are urging Hobbs and legislative leaders to cap growth of the voucher program.

Save Our Schools Director Beth Lewis said the state can’t afford to continue funding ESAs at the current rate.

“It’s become a subsidy for people that are already choosing private school and homeschool at the expense of one million public school students that are sitting in our classrooms," Lewis said.

Hobbs said she agrees the program is a drain on public school resources, but, "I didn't say we were going to end it. It is a goal, certainly. And we put that in our executive budget as the goal, knowing we would be in a place where we were going to have to negotiate."

So far, Democrats have voted in unison against the budget deal.

In a statement Tuesday, Democratic leaders from the house and senate said the voucher program needs responsible limits.

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