Just as students are getting back to their studies, education advocacy groups are hoping parents and community members will be doing some studying of their own, not of English and math, but of how Arizona legislators voted in 2017 on key bills impacting public schools and the students they serve.
AZ Schools Now, a coalition of organizations focused on school funding, and Friends of ASBA, a non-profit organization focused on providing access to information and resources on high-priority education issues, both released voting records this month for all 90 members of the Arizona Legislature.
How individual legislators voted on the expansion of Arizona’s voucher program, which enables families to receive taxpayer funds to send their children to private and religious schools, is a major focus of the reports.
The controversial legislation, Senate Bill 1431, which was signed by Governor Doug Ducey the day it was passed, is the subject of a citizen repeal effort.
Today, leaders of the grassroots, all-volunteer Save Our Schools Arizona, delivered petitions to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office to get a referendum to repeal the measure on the November 2018 general election ballot. Beth Lewis, who led the effort, said the group obtained more than 111,540 signatures. State law requires 75,321 valid signatures for the measure to make the ballot.
The law, which would have gone into effect Wednesday, is now suspended until the Secretary of State determines if the group has collected enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot. That can take up to two months.
The AZ Schools Now voting records cover other funding issues. Friends of ASBA also covers funding bills as well as those that inhibit effective local governance of public district schools.
Funding and taxes
AZ Schools Now guide “How State Legislators Voted on School Funding in 2017,” summarizes state lawmakers’ votes on key public school funding legislation in 2017, including an expansion of taxpayer-funded ESA voucher subsidies for private and religious education, the 1 percent salary stipend for teachers, increased funding for certain schools based on test scores, and additional tax cuts for corporations and families at all income levels that the coalition believes drains funding away from public education.
“Though Arizona voters are united in their strong support for re-investments in public schools, our state legislature has been slow to respond,” the report states. “Additional education funding for fiscal year 2018, combined with the voter-approved inflationary funding from Proposition 123, still leaves public schools with $1.1 billion less in funding than a decade ago.”
In the guide, AZ Schools Now encourages legislators to provide teachers with competitive compensation and professional support, classroom tools and supplies, updated textbooks and technology as well as repair and maintain school facilities for safe, clean, functional places for students to learn.
Funding, vouchers and local control
Another report voters can use as a resource is “How Arizona Legislators Voted in 2017 on High Priority K-12 Education Bills” published by the Friends of ASBA.
Friends of ASBA, which is affiliated with the non-partisan Arizona School Boards Association, provides access to information and resources on high-priority, high-impact, policy issues related to the educational success of public school students in Arizona.
The report, organized by Arizona’s 30 legislative districts, tracks state legislators’ votes on 10 key bills introduced in the last session that focused on funding, vouchers and local control.
It also includes data by legislative district on voter turnout, registered voters by party, race/ethnicity of population and children, and school districts represented.
This year, legislators were also rated on whether their overall voting record during the session was supportive of public education or not, in the estimation of Friends of ASBA.
Other issues that affect children
In June, Children’s Action Alliance released “Who’s For Kids and Who’s Just Kidding: A 2017 Legislative Wrap-Up and Report Card for Kids” which details how Arizona legislators voted on key children’s issues such as tax cuts, the state budget, Empowerment Scholarship Account school vouchers, and driver’s insurance for foster youth.