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AZ Governor Tries to Cancel School Choice. Goldwater Fights Back

June 14, 2023

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs is trying to snatch school choice from families by canceling funding for kindergarten students through Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program. That’s not just wrong; it’s illegal—and the Goldwater Institute is fighting back on behalf of families.

At the beginning of the year, the governor’s office agreed to provide the State Treasurer with federal grant money to fund additional educational opportunities for Arizona children, including access to all-day kindergarten for those participating in the ESA program. While the overwhelming majority of students at public schools have access to all-day kindergarten, Arizona families opting for the ESA program have been counting on these grant funds to provide similar opportunities for their children: as any parent knows, managing a child’s education takes a lot of advance planning, and thousands of families are relying on the original funding promise from the governor’s office while making decisions for the coming school year.

But these families have found themselves in for a surprise. Months after the governor’s office entered the funding agreement, and on the eve of a new school year, Gov. Hobbs abruptly announced on May 23 that the grant was cancelled, and Arizona children would not receive the funding they were counting on. She called the ESA funding for all-day kindergarten “illegal and invalid,” and demanded that State Treasurer Kimberly Yee stop all preparations to administer the grant program.

That’s why Goldwater sent a letter to both Gov. Hobbs and Treasurer Yee today, making clear that the governor’s office has no right to break its promise to Arizona kindergarteners. Just like any contract, the governor’s office’s agreement is legally binding. Gov. Hobbs cannot simply “cancel” it, and her excuses for trying to do so—that the agreement allegedly violates the law—are completely baseless. In fact, consistent with Gov. Hobbs’ anti-ESA rhetoric over the past year, this isn’t really about legal arguments at all: it’s just the latest effort in a series of attacks on school choice in general, and on Arizona’s ESA program in particular. But just like other recent attempts to disempower parents, Gov. Hobbs’ latest tactic is bound to fail.

Goldwater’s expansion of Arizona’s ESA program—which the Institute created more than a decade ago—to every family in the state has been immensely successful and popular. Thousands of parents have exercised their freedom to customize their child’s education around that student’s unique needs, and Goldwater has used this new gold standard for school choice as a model to enact universal ESAs in four more states just in 2023 alone.

It’s simple: the governor does not have a right to lawlessly renege on promises made to Arizona families. Goldwater will never stop fighting to empower parents, expand choices in education, and to hold government officials accountable—in Arizona and throughout the country.

You can read our letter here.

John Thorpe is a Staff Attorney at the Goldwater Institute.



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