Save Our Schools Arizona (SOS) and some Dem lawmakers were up in arms last week. And anytime that happens, you know you’re probably doing something right.
Last Wednesday, the Republican-led legislature passed the $17.8 billion budget, and it was a big win for students, parents, school choice, and Arizona’s taxpayers. Despite the fact that Governor Katie Hobbs made it clear that she planned to dismantle school choice for all with a full repeal of the beloved Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA), Hobbs signed the budget without any cap or restrictions on the historic program. This should be cause for celebration—unless, of course, you’re SOS or certain Democrat lawmakers.
Predictably, SOS got right to work on spreading lies about the popular ESA program, claiming it would drain K-12 public schools of funding, hurt Arizona’s economy, and even bankrupt the state. That last lie is particularly absurd, but then again SOS has a history of such desperation when its back is against the wall. (Can you imagine being this bent out of shape that children from all walks of life can get an education that best fits their needs?)
The reality is that the ESA program has absolutely exploded during this fiscal year, and if you believe the lies of SOS, then you would think that Arizona would be suffering from a severe budget deficit. But the opposite occurred. According to data released last month by the nonpartisan Joint Legislative Budget Committee, Arizona’s estimated revenue surplus surged by an extra $750 million, putting the total state budget surplus this year at $2.5 billion. And all of this has taken place with more than 40,000 new students joining our state’s universal school choice program, bringing the total number of students enrolled to over 56,000.
So much for that bankruptcy talking point. But then again, SOS is the group that miscounted signatures on its ballot initiative back in September by more than 52,000. This just proves once again that there really is no math quite like “Save Our Schools” math.
The truth is that a typical ESA scholarship award is around $7,000 per student, and that is about half of the roughly $14,000 spent on average per student in a public school. This means that the ESA program serves around two students for the cost of one in a traditional public school, and the last time we checked, that means saving taxpayers money.
But don’t just take our word for it. The proof is in the budget itself. Included in this fiscal year’s budget for our state was the insertion of the Arizona Families Tax Rebate. That means Arizona taxpayers are going to get some extra cash this year thanks to Republicans giving back. You can’t do that if you have a severe budget deficit. And you certainly can’t do that if you’re heading toward bankruptcy. But for the first time in at least 30 years—and after already historic tax cuts—our lawmakers were able to provide such a rebate to Arizona’s citizens. So, while students get the education of their choice, you get more money in your wallet. And that’s a win-win for everyone.
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