The unions had an easy task, needing only ~120,000 signatures. They say they got over 140,000. Voucher expansion and school choice hence appear stalled, set to go on the ballot.
We had previously reported in a number of articles on HB2853 and the school voucher expansion that it entails. The teachers unions may be concentrated evil, but they are not stupid. They recognized immediately that universal school choice would lead to an exodus of students from failing, mismanaged and corrupt public schools, threatening their monopoly. They took action via their aligned Political Action Committee, Save our Schools Arizona, SOS, financed in large part by unionized public school teachers. They filed a veto petition with the Arizona Secretary of State even before HB2853 was passed. Their task was to collect a mere ~120,000 signatures to temporarily stall the voucher bill and get it on the ballot in front of voters, likely either in this coming 2022 election, in 2024, or possibly even in 2023 in a special (low turnout) election, favorable to the public school teachers unions.
School choice proponents reacted by protesting near signature collection sites, holding up signs urging people not to sign. Their heroic efforts undoubtedly succeeded in slowing down the drive of SOS as the total number of ~141,000 signatures they claim to have gotten is modest. We had thought that the unions would get at least 250,000 signatures. SOS claims that the signature drive was volunteer driven. However, according to sources, SOS used paid signature collectors.
The voucher expansion now appears stalled, although legal challenges will likely ensue. Sources indicated to us that signatures will be challenged and there are reports of dubious activities of SOS such as collecting duplicate signatures. Should the signature count nevertheless remain sufficient despite the challenges, children and their parents would not have school choice, thanks to the evil teachers unions. HB2853 would be stalled until it would go on the ballot. As of right now it is not clear when this would be. Some people believe it may be this year, others say 2024. In any case, expect the unions to pour tens of Millions of Dollars into this ballot effort to convince people that granting school choice is bad for kids.
Are school choice proponents prepared to face an army of tens of thousands of unionized public school teachers, screaming, lying, cajoling, intimating and threatening people into voting against school choice, supported by tens of millions of advertising spending and Democrat politicians marching in lockstep against school choice? We hope so. A spokesman for the Goldwater Institute, one of the leading policy organizations behind the voucher expansion bill, offered no comment at this time. About a month ago we had urged school choice proponents to start preparing for a fight at the ballot box, just in case.