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Universal School Choice in Arizona Trounces Teachers Union Scheme to Overturn It

September 30, 2022

In a decision that rings across the nation, the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office announced today that the attempt to overturn the state’s landmark universal school choice reform has failed. Now, the Goldwater Institute’s groundbreaking, first-in-the-nation statewide expansion of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) can move forward and continue to be an example for every state in America.

Save Our Schools Arizona, a teachers union-backed special interest group, fell well short of the requisite 118,823 signatures needed to challenge the expansion of the state’s ESA program to every student in the state. As the Secretary of State has now confirmed, Save Our Schools did not submit enough signatures to make the ballot, despite their false claims last week that they had turned in over 141,000.

The initial finding is a vindication of parents who are clamoring for choice in education, and they are a clear repudiation of an anti-parent, anti-school choice agenda that claims bureaucrats are more equipped to make decisions about children’s education than families themselves. Families weary of a one-size-fits-all education system will finally be able to get their children the education they deserve, regardless of zip code—thanks to the most expansive school choice program in the nation.

“This is the day that Arizona families have been waiting for. Our family, and thousands like ours, have seen firsthand the difference that ESAs can make in our kids’ education,” said Jenny Clark, a mother of five and the Executive Director of Love Your School, which advocates for school choice policies in Arizona. “Now, every Arizona family will have access to an Empowerment Scholarship so they choose the education style that works best for their child.”

Under the reform, which the Goldwater Institute passed earlier this year, families who wish to opt out of their local public school will receive nearly $7,000 per year per child for private school, home-based education, “learning pods,” tutoring, or any other kinds of educational service that would best fit their students’ unique needs.

Entrenched government interests who felt threatened by parental empowerment tried to maintain the status quo by fighting school choice with falsehoods and half-truths. But parents rallied to urge their fellow citizens to decline to sign the anti-parental rights group’s petition, and the massive signature shortfall shows that parents’ desire for choice in education can prevail over the union spin machine.

“This is a monumental victory for students not only in Arizona, but also across the nation,” said the Goldwater Institute’s Matt Beienburg, Director of Education Policy and Director of the Van Sittert Center for Constitutional Advocacy. “Lawmakers in every other state now know it’s possible to defeat the radical teachers unions and make students the priority of our education system once again.”

ESAs, which the Goldwater Institute created in Arizona more than a decade ago, have been hugely successful in empowering parents to customize their child’s education experience. The ESA program has gone from serving 100 students in 2011 to 11,000 earlier this year. Thanks to HB 2853, sponsored by Rep. Ben Toma, more than one million students will now be eligible.

The Goldwater Institute is proud to have passed the gold standard for school choice, empowering all Arizona parents to take charge of their children’s education. And the Goldwater Institute will never stop working nationwide to expand school choice so that other parents around the country can do the same.



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