Gov Ducey ceremoniously signed House Bill 2853 which expands Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, ESA, worth ~$7,000 per year to all Arizona K-12 students. Video in article.
Calling opponents of the new school choice bill misguided special interests, Ducey highlighted that the new School Voucher Bill enables families of all income levels to more easily access educational choice, including private schooling and home schooling. During his speech Ducey quite cleverly defined public education not as education by the government, but instead education of the public, which of course can be done by private organizations and citizens.
Pastor Drew Anderson from Democrats for School Choice subtly compared the government education system to oppression saying at first they didn't let black kids in, now they don't want to let them out of public schools. He concluded with the MLK quote of "free at last".
American Federation for Children Representative Corey DeAngelis highlighted that the new school choice bill puts Arizona in the No. 1 spot in the nation for school choice and thanked Arizona legislatures for passing the bill despite massive pressure not to do so.
State Representative Ben Toma - R, the sponsor of the bill, thanked his Republicans colleagues for passing the bill. Despite Democrats for School Choice being present at the ceremony - some recognizable by their yellow shirts - the bill passed on strictly partisan lines. Not one Democrat in the Arizona House or Senate voted for the bill. The teachers union aligned Save our Schools Arizona, SOS, political action committee, PAC, is currently collecting signatures for a veto referendum. If successful, this would put the bill on hold before putting it on the ballot either in November 2022 or 2024. The teachers unions are the largest part owner of the Democratic Party.
Teachers unions push back
In an interview we will publish in the next few days parent leader Christine Accurso says she is confident that SOS will not be successful in its attempts to collect the required ~120,000 signatures to pause the school choice bill. However, she also said that if they are, that parents across the state are ready to fight for school choice and will defeat the veto referendum at the ballot box. It remains to be seen if parents are able to organize effectively against the highly organized, disciplined, funded and aggressive teachers unions that do not only want to kill the expansion of the ESA, but want to get rid of it altogether, want to get rid of charter schools, private schools and eventually outlaw home schooling.
Concluding with "the sky is the limit, the law of the land" Ducey ceremonously signed the bill to much applause by the several hundred people in attendance. Ducey had signed the bill officially last month.
Video with excellent speeches supporting school choice
State Sen JD Mesnard silent
On site of the signing our reporter asked State Senator JD Mesnard for comment, but he declined to speak with us. Mesnard, who represents Legislative District 17, encompassing much of Chandler and some of Gilbert, has been weak on educational issues by folding to teachers union demands on several occasions. He was presumably pushed by his Republican colleagues to get behind the ESA school choice bill. Yet, even if you hate the right of your own party, Trump, and his supporters, if you are up for re-election against a Democrat, which in 2020 you only survived by 5 points, it may, politically, make sense to speak with a publication that is read by right of center voters, and brag about the popular school choice bill that you voted for and that was just signed, even if you should perhaps secretly hate it because you think it's a handout, you prefer to give the money to special interest controlled public schools instead and/or because some of your donors don't like the bill.
It is not a handout of course, and the ESA is budget neutral because it simply takes money that would otherwise go to government schools, and instead lets the money follow the child, whether to government school, charter, private, micro or home school.