crossing guard

On Tuesday, the Arizona Department of Education notified the Joint Legislative Budget Committee that the projected enrollment in Arizona’s school choice program is expected to hit 100,000 students by the end of fiscal year 2024.

The popularity of the program has not been dampened by attacks on it from teacher-union-affiliated groups, or from and Governor Katie Hobbs’ and Attorney General Kris Mayes’ attempts to kill the funding for it.

In response to Hobbs’ and Mayes’ attacks on the Empowerment Scholarship Account school choice program, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne reassured Arizona families that the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) Program was not affected by Hobbs’ decision to block $50 million in grant dollars for added kindergarten funding.

The grant would have allowed parents of kindergartners who receive half day funding through the existing ESA program to apply for a separate scholarship that would pay for the second half of their kindergarten day. It was funded by federal ARPA dollars and is a separate scholarship not connected to the existing state-funded ESA program.

“All day kindergarten was a project of Democrat Governor Janet Napolitano during my first term as Superintendent of Public Instruction,” Horne noted. “I agreed with the Governor, and this became a bi-partisan project at the legislature. With all-day kindergarten, students learn to read in kindergarten and that gave them a head start in first grade. To eliminate funding for all-day kindergarten will reduce the academic performance of Arizona students which is the precise opposite of what government should be doing.”

The exodus from traditional public schools picked up steam during the lockdowns imposed by the Trump administration and extended by the Biden administration. Traditional public school enrollment has declined steadily, leaving the teachers’ union in a panic as school choice measures have empowered parents to pull their kids from failing schools and take them, and most of the funding that accompanies each child, to better schools.

Last week, Arizona State House and Senate Republican leadership sent a letter to Mayes demanding that she retract inaccurate and inflammatory public statements that she’s made to attack ESAs.

The letter was signed by Speaker of the House Rep. Ben Toma, Senate President Sen. Warren Petersen, Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Travis Grantham, Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. TJ Shope, House Majority Leader Rep. Leo Biasiucci, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Sonny Borelli, House Majority Whip Rep. Teresa Martinez, and Senate Majority Whip Sen. Sine Kerr.

Mayes claimed, contrary to evidence, that “there are no controls” on the ESA program, “no accountability,” and that parents are “spending hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money.” Mayes also claimed that it was her “responsibility to do that” as Arizona’s “top law enforcement officer.”

As previously reported, contrary to her claim, it is not her job to investigate the ESA program unless an investigation into a particular use of ESA funds is forwarded by the State Board of Education.

The ESA program was expanded to all K-12 students through a bill sponsored by Toma last year, has been under attack by the teachers’ union and assorted left-wing groups. Since its inception, up to and including this Legislative Session, Democrats have unsuccessfully tried a variety of legal and political tactics to kill the program.


Mayes Called Out For Threatening To Investigate Families In ESA Program

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