Katie Hobbs is a Lethal Threat to Arizona’s Education Freedom

by | Jan 8, 2024 | Fixing Education

The radical Democrat governor puts school choice in peril

Education freedom means giving parents a choice in the school their children attend. Unfortunately, that freedom isn’t available in most states in our nation and the quality of a child’s education is determined by their zip code.

Arizona is one shining exception—one which parents are in danger of losing under Democrat Gov. Katie Hobbs.

Under Arizona’s last Republican governor, the state made great strides in establishing education freedom. Lawmakers established Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) for students who meet certain criteria—such as those with disabilities, military connected students, or students enrolled in a failing school—which can be used toward tuition at a qualifying school, online learning programs, or other curricula.

The average amount awarded under the ESA program for the first quarter of 2024 was $9,782.00—just shy of the average private school tuition in Arizona of $10,196—determined by “calculating 90 percent of the amount a student would have received in state funding had the student attended his or her school district of residence.” One sign of the program’s clear success was its rapid adoption by parents, with over 66,000 students enrolled in the ESA program just a year after it was signed into law.

Then Katie Hobbs became governor, and that great foundation for education freedom immediately came under assault by her teachers’ union allies. Their goal: Make Arizona look like New York.

Rule By Fiat

One of Hobbs’ first decisions in office was attempting to abolish education freedom for students with disabilities, with the ultimate goal cancelling ESAs outright—despite the fact that they benefit the most vulnerable Arizonans.

The Arizona Teachers’ Union (AEA) helped fund Hobbs’ campaign; it’s no surprise that the union influences her policies as well. It’s fought hard to oppose the state’s education freedom laws. And now that Hobbs has appointed former union leaders to administrative positions, the efforts to       undo the advances in education reform will continue. 

Contrast Arizona’s success with the dismal state of New York education.

Niagara Falls School District is one of the worst in the nation. If you’re unlucky enough to live there, you will either need to have personal funds for private school or homeschool for your child to have a chance at receiving a good education. The reason for these failing districts is clear: New York is one of the least-friendly states for education freedom. Local tax dollars go directly to the zoned school district of a student, even if that student doesn’t attend their public school, while parents are barred from accessing allotted state education funding.

(RELATED: Today’s PTA is a Tool of the Radical Left)

Americans overwhelmingly support school choice. When registered voters were asked last summer whether they support the idea of parents being able to use tax dollars designated for education to send their child to private schools, over 71 percent of respondents said yes. That includes an overwhelming majority—73 percent—of black voters.

In another school choice poll, black parents indicated strong support for education savings accounts (78 percent) and school vouchers (79 percent).

Florida Gets It Right

Florida is at the forefront of education freedom because the state offers several different school choice options for families. The Opportunity Scholarship Program allows students who are stuck in a failing school to apply for this school choice alternative and be able to attend a higher achieving school. Family Empowerment Scholarships (FES) are another option for Florida families of students with unique needs. Students with autism, Down Syndrome, intellectual disabilities, and other categories may apply for the FES which can be used to provide students with educational options such as private schools, tutoring, homeschool, and even postsecondary opportunities. The average amount awarded for the FES is $10,000, a substantial sum to help a student succeed.

Rather than embracing the obvious positive impacts of education freedom—as is evidenced in Florida—Katie Hobbs wants to take back government control of children, even if it means harming students with special needs.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) places government mandates and regulations on K-12 public education regarding the services they must provide to students with special needs. However, these requirements do not always come with government funding, and schools often struggle to educate qualifying students to the level they deserve. ESAs and other school choice options can be a way that parents can access taxpayer funds directly and provide for the individual needs of their children—especially when government schools fail to do so.

Government education continues to fail children as evidenced by the continued achievement gaps for students with special needs—except for Florida. 2022 NAEP scores for students with disabilities in Florida show strong results in a positive direction. Florida ranked #1 in grade 4 reading and math scores for students with disabilities, dramatically closing the gap for these Florida students.

More states need to follow Florida’s lead on education freedom since it has been proven that Florida’s methods are improving student achievement. Unfortunately, Democrats won’t adopt this proven model because the Democratic Party is controlled by its teachers’ union overlords.

Stop the Insanity!

It is baffling that politicians around the nation continue to hold onto an anti-school choice mindset. One of the common arguments against education freedom is that if tax dollars are redirected from the public schools into the hands of parents, students in public schools will not succeed. That argument doesn’t hold water.

Increased spending does not equate higher achievement. Per pupil spending in the U.S. in 2012–13 was $11,509, while ten years later in 2022–23 it was up to $15,770—yet academic achievement is down!

(The famous quote attributed to Albert Einstein definitely applies here: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”)

(READ MORE: Katie Hobbs’ Desk is Where Bills Go To Die)

Even states that have full Republican control have been hesitant to enact meaningful school choice reform—Texas falls into that category. ALEC has given the Lone Star State a “C” grade for school choice. Competition breeds excellence, and in most states there is a monopoly on public education.

Shouldn’t all Republicans be in favor of one of the most important facets of capitalism—competition?

Tommy Schultz, CEO of the American Federation for Children recently said:

School choice support is here to stay, and politicians who ignore this reality do so at their own peril. Parents are the new interest group in town, and legislators would be wise to keep responding to their needs.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle would be sensible to adhere to this advice. Republicans (80 percent), Democrats (66 percent), and independents (69 percent) all agree that tax dollars should follow the student.

Democrat politicians oppose school choice because they are afraid of losing control of what is poured into the minds of our nation’s children. Republicans have been asleep at the wheel on education issues for so long that until COVID, they just didn’t want to touch the topic.

Parents are now forcing the education conversation and politicians would be wise to listen and stop the insanity! They should take up winning campaign mottos such as: “A Child’s Education Should Not Be Determined By Their Zip Code” or “Education Freedom: Competition Breeds Excellence.”

Victoria Manning is the vice president of Students First VA and an elected member of the Virginia Beach School Board

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