Now That Social-Emotional Learning Programs Are Being Eliminated, Schools Can Prioritize What Matters: Academics

Now That Social-Emotional Learning Programs Are Being Eliminated, Schools Can Prioritize What Matters: Academics

It’s always a good day when an elected official holds to his campaign promises. And as the newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Horne has done just that. During his campaign, Tom said he would make it a priority to stop indoctrination like Critical Race Theory while fighting back against cancel culture and improving student performance. Last week, he took important steps to make this a reality.

Under Tom’s direction, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) has eliminated social-emotional learning (SEL) from its administration. Among his first moves, Tom has not only removed references to SEL, but he has gotten rid of other leftist initiatives from former Superintendent Kathy Hoffman like the division of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion along with sex chat rooms for minors like “Queer Chat.”

But while Tom is working hard to end the woke indoctrination of our students, he’s not stopping there. He’s actually placing a renewed focus on what our schools should be prioritizing: academics. Take the ADE’s recent annual conference for teachers, principals, and other educators, for example. Before the conference, the ADE canceled SEL presentations that had been planned under the previous administration on topics like racial trauma, creating a culture of care, and diversity and equity skills for school leaders. And what did Tom replace them with? Sessions on improving math instruction and how to improve a student’s academic performance.

That should be something we can all get behind, right? After all, data from the National Assessment of Education Progress shows that students in Arizona suffered severe learning losses in math and nominal losses in reading as a result of remote learning during COVID.

But as you might expect, the Left is already in an uproar. Believe it or not, several “education consultants” who had their presentations canceled at the ADE conference actually claimed that it would hurt students. That’s right. They think that replacing SEL training with training on how to improve academic achievement—especially in math—will be harmful to children. You can’t make this stuff up.

These so-called “education consultants” must have missed the part where the majority of Arizona’s students have been failing the statewide assessment. And they must not have been paying attention to the latest ACT scoring data, which shows that the average Arizona student doesn’t achieve an ACT score recommended as a minimum by our state universities. Or maybe they just have their own agenda.

The fact is that SEL has been receiving millions of dollars in funding right here in the state of Arizona. And plenty of our state’s school staff—like counselors—have been trained in its controversial theories and ideologies. But what has that gotten us? Learning loss and lower test scores.

It’s time to purge SEL from our schools entirely and put that money toward students and improving teacher salaries. Our children deserve a real education that gives them the best opportunity for success in the future. Thankfully, Tom Horne is proving he’s the right man for the job.

Help Protect Freedom in Arizona by Joining Our Grassroots Network

Arizona needs to have a unified voice promoting economic freedom and prosperity, and the Free Enterprise Club is committed to making that happen. But we can’t do it alone. We need YOU!

Join our FREE Grassroots Action List to stay up to date on the latest battles against big government and how YOU can help influence crucial bills at the Arizona State Legislature.

Katie Hobbs’ Budget Is One Big Liberal Wish List

Katie Hobbs’ Budget Is One Big Liberal Wish List

The people of Arizona do not want to turn our state into the next California. But just a few weeks into her reign as governor, Katie Hobbs has made it clear—that’s exactly what she intends to do. Last week, Hobbs released her first budget plan, and it’s nothing more than a liberal wish list of big spending, extreme proposals, and corporate welfare designed to reward her special interest friends.

Her first target is education, and she wasted no time going after Arizona’s expansion of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs). Yes, the program that is so popular that it overwhelmed the Department of Education’s website immediately after launch—the one that even some Democrats have openly supported. Despite being a private schooler herself, Hobbs wants to dismantle school choice for all with a full repeal of universal ESAs. And that’s just the start.

While seeking to prohibit minority children and low-income families from choosing their K-12 school, Hobbs also wants to use your tax dollars to subsidize college tuition for illegal immigrants. On the heels of the narrow passage of Prop 308 in this November’s election, Hobbs proposed a budget of $40 million to establish a new tuition scholarship program for Deferred Action Childhood Arrival (DACA) eligible students. This means that, using your taxpayer dollars, illegal immigrants will now be paying less for college than in-state students! (But hey, at least we have Biden’s student loan forgiveness program. Oh wait…that turned out to be the complete failure we predicted it would be.)

In addition to her focus on public education spending, Hobbs’ plan contains a massive expansion of government-funded health care. It includes $463.5 million and $115.8 million in federal fund expenditure authority to utilize year three of federal funding given directly to AHCCCS and the Department of Economic Security respectively. It sets aside $257 million for AHCCCS program caseload growth and the unwinding of federal COVID-19 policies. And consistent with her view that no laws limiting abortion should exist, Hobbs put $6 million toward “family planning services.” But that’s not all.

No liberal budget is complete without bowing down at the altar of AOC’s Green New Deal. So, of course, Hobbs pledged $15 million to install more electric vehicle charging stations despite evidence that debunks their so-called “green” benefits. And along with a myriad of other “green” transit projects, she proposed using $7.5 million toward an interstate commuter rail in Phoenix. That seems like it would go well with another decision in her budget—to eliminate Arizona’s border strike force. Illegal immigration is at an all-time high, and our state has seen a stark increase in the amount of illegal immigrants apprehended with one or more prior criminal convictions. But Hobbs wants to turn a blind eye to the problem while providing illegal immigrants with easier access to Phoenix through a commuter rail. What could go wrong?

We are at a crucial moment in our state, and now is not the time to waver or give in. The Decline to Sign movement to defend school choice showed us that when we fight back, we can win. Now, Republicans need to stand united against Katie Hobbs’ radical budget. Otherwise, she’ll get her ultimate wish—that Arizona resembles our neighbors to the west.

Help Protect Freedom in Arizona by Joining Our Grassroots Network

Arizona needs to have a unified voice promoting economic freedom and prosperity, and the Free Enterprise Club is committed to making that happen. But we can’t do it alone. We need YOU!

Join our FREE Grassroots Action List to stay up to date on the latest battles against big government and how YOU can help influence crucial bills at the Arizona State Legislature.

As Katie Hobbs Spouts Lies About K-12 Education Spending, Republicans Must Push Back

As Katie Hobbs Spouts Lies About K-12 Education Spending, Republicans Must Push Back

For the last two years, Republicans have been winning the education debate, and Democrats are not happy. Public education has long been their baby, using it to indoctrinate children with their radical ideas all while deceiving voters into outrageous tax increases.

But after watching Republican Tom Horne win the race for Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction this November—while 19 conservatives picked up school board seats—Democrats went into a tailspin. That’s why it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Governor Katie Hobbs is willing to do whatever it takes to change the narrative, including lying to voters about K-12 education spending.

In Hobbs’s first State of the State address delivered earlier this week, she got right to work—claiming that our schools are woefully underfunded and that “investments” in our schools are long overdue. Right on cue, the liberal and anti-school choice Arizona Republic swooned over her comments. But there’s a problem: Hobbs’s assertion just isn’t true.

Funding for K-12 education in Arizona is at its highest level in state history. And the reason we know this is because there is a constitutional expenditure limit—which Hobbs couldn’t help but attack in her address. But this limit, which was approved by voters, isn’t some subjective cap that legislators can manipulate to cover up how much or how little is being spent. It’s an objective formula used by the Department of Revenue every year to determine funding levels based on student population, plus inflation, plus an additional 10% on top of that.

Do you know what that amounted to for Fiscal Year 2022? $14,326 per student. That’s the highest per pupil spending in state history! The FY 2023 budget passed last June put hundreds of millions more into the K-12 bucket! And yet, Democrats continue to push the lie that our schools are underfunded.

That’s why it’s time for Republicans to step up and forcefully push back against this narrative from the Left. It is nothing more than a ploy by Democrats to change the education debate because they know that they have been losing so badly on the issue. And that’s because for the last two years, Republicans have been focused on what matters most: parental rights, school choice, accountability, and stopping the woke indoctrination in our schools.

But Hobbs wants to turn back the clock to 2019, when the entire education debate was focused on how much money we should plow into K-12 schools while many in the GOP cowered from Red4ED and capitulated to their demands. We ended up with Prop 208 because of this failed strategy. And that would have made Arizona a high tax state had it not been for litigation pushed by the Free Enterprise Club and the Goldwater Institute challenging the constitutionality of the plan killing it once and for all.

Republicans can’t make the same mistake this time by getting pulled back into a bidding war on the education issue. Momentum is on our side, and that’s why it’s critical for the GOP to reject Hobbs’s premise that schools are underfunded while staying laser focused on the parental rights and school choice messages that will continue to lead to success on this issue.

Help Protect Freedom in Arizona by Joining Our Grassroots Network

Arizona needs to have a unified voice promoting economic freedom and prosperity, and the Free Enterprise Club is committed to making that happen. But we can’t do it alone. We need YOU!

Join our FREE Grassroots Action List to stay up to date on the latest battles against big government and how YOU can help influence crucial bills at the Arizona State Legislature.

ESA Signature Blunder Shows There’s No Math Quite Like ‘Save Our Schools’ Math

ESA Signature Blunder Shows There’s No Math Quite Like ‘Save Our Schools’ Math

What’s the difference between 141,714 and 88,866? Take a few seconds to do the math, and feel free to use a calculator if you’d like.

If you answered 52,848, you’re correct! Congratulations and give yourself a pat on the back because your math skills are far superior to those of Save Our Schools (SOS) and the rest of Arizona’s teachers’ unions.

On Friday, SOS Executive Director Beth Lewis boldly proclaimed—with all the confidence in the world—that the wall of boxes she was standing in front of contained the signatures of 141,714 Arizona voters who supported a ballot initiative aimed at overturning universal Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) in Arizona. She was giddy. Her supporters cheered. SOS declared blocking universal school choice for all a “historic victory.” And corporate media jumped on the opportunity to push their narrative, accepting everything SOS said at face value. 

But there was a problem. And that’s where simple math comes into play.

An open records request by Christine Accurso, who led the Decline to Sign movement, showed that SOS fudged the numbers. And the Goldwater Institute revealed that the group only submitted 88,866 total signatures, well short of their initial declaration and the 118,843 needed to repeal the new ESA law via ballot referendum.

Certainly, things are moving fast when you’re gathering signatures and rushing to hit a deadline. Petition gathering is difficult, so it’s not out of the ordinary to be a little off on your initial estimate. But to miss the mark by more than 52,000?!? They weren’t even close!!!

Once their faulty math was exposed, SOS scrambled to make excuses for their debacle. And once again, members of corporate media like Joe Dana were quick to do their bidding and try to soften the blow. The group claimed that their faulty counts were “necessarily estimates” in the overwhelming final days of their campaign. And after backpedaling on her signature count, Beth Lewis couldn’t help but share, “This is not us being hacks, this is us being volunteers with our hair on fire.”

Can you see through the lies yet? They lied about their numbers. They fooled their supporters into believing they were victorious. And then Beth calls herself a volunteer despite the fact that she’s the paid executive director of Save Our Schools.

None of these people should by anywhere near our schools with their common core math, yet these rabid school choice opponents are heralded by the media as the leading “experts” to improve K-12 education. It’s no wonder why a majority of Arizona students continue to fail statewide testing. To SOS and the teachers’ unions, indoctrinating students with their latest woke curriculum will always matter more than teaching kids reading, writing, and arithmetic.

In the aftermath of this nonsense, students and parents are left to deal with the real-world consequences. The new ESA law is now blocked while Secretary of State Katie Hobbs takes her sweet time counting the number of signatures that we already know has fallen short. And taxpayers get to fund this work as her office processes this charade.

But Katie can’t run and hide from this one. It’s only a matter of time until the process reveals the truth we already know. Save Our Schools wasn’t even close in its bid to upend school choice in Arizona. This is a huge victory for parents throughout our state. And it just goes to show, once again, why the Decline to Sign Movement to defend school choice is the perfect example of how to fight back against the Left.

Help Protect Freedom in Arizona by Joining Our Grassroots Network

Arizona needs to have a unified voice promoting economic freedom and prosperity, and the Free Enterprise Club is committed to making that happen. But we can’t do it alone. We need YOU!

Join our FREE Grassroots Action List to stay up to date on the latest battles against big government and how YOU can help influence crucial bills at the Arizona State Legislature.

The Decline to Sign Movement to Defend School Choice Is the Perfect Example of How to Fight Back

The Decline to Sign Movement to Defend School Choice Is the Perfect Example of How to Fight Back

Save Our Schools Arizona is clearly frustrated in its mission to stop families from having the freedom of school choice. For a few months now, the group has been gathering signatures throughout Arizona for a ballot initiative aimed at overturning universal Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA). You know…the law that was passed this summer to ensure every child gets the education they deserve. The one that even some Democrats and prominent black leaders like Pastor Drew Anderson fought for. The law that actually saves taxpayers money and was so popular that its launch overwhelmed the Arizona Department of Education’s website!

That’s what Save Our Schools is fighting against. And they likely thought their efforts to deceive the public about the nature of ESAs would go uncontested. But they were wrong.

Not long after Save Our Schools started its signature gathering, an organic movement of parents, teachers, and community organizers led by Christine Accurso hit the streets and social media to combat the lies peacefully. With basically no funding, the group—known as Decline to Sign Arizona—has met Save Our Schools at every turn to help every petition signer understand the truth about what they are signing. They stood on street corners in 110-degree weather. They alerted business owners when their private property was being used by Save Our Schools without permission to collect signatures. And they mobilized to have a presence anywhere Save Our Schools showed up—all in the name of protecting school choice.

While we should know by the end of this week if Save Our Schools has the 118,823 valid signatures to get on the ballot, it’s clear that the Decline to Sign movement has left them frustrated. Just look at this weekend’s Twitter meltdown from Save Our Schools director Beth Lewis. It has all the usual signs of a group in desperation:

    • Calling the peaceful protestors MAGA extremists…check.
    • Accusing Decline to Sign of “interfering with democracy…” check.
    • Avoiding persuasive facts and continuing to peddle lies by falsely labeling ESAs as vouchers…check.

If Save our Schools’ ballot initiative was worthwhile, you would think its director could avoid the name-calling and simply sell her viewpoint. But instead, she pulls from the Left’s predictable playbook to work the “Trump” name into her rant in a Hail Mary attempt to get some attention.

Maybe it will work this time. Maybe Save Our Schools will wind up with enough signatures to get on the ballot. But regardless of the outcome, the Decline to Sign movement has become the perfect illustration of how to fight back against the Left.

It doesn’t take millions of dollars spent on consultants, advertising, and politicians to do your bidding. You get on the ground, hit the streets, and fight. You make them squirm. You make passionate and reasoned arguments based on facts until they expose themselves by abandoning their talking points and resorting to name-calling.

This is how you beat the Left.

Right now, it’s for school choice, which, as Pastor Drew says, is the civil rights issue of our generation. But the battles won’t stop there. Even if conservatives control the legislature and the executive branch, the Left will keep fighting. That’s why it’s critical that the people are there to meet them at every turn. We can’t sit back on the sidelines and expect our elected leaders to do it all. It’s time for conservatives to step up. Thankfully, Decline to Sign Arizona has given us the playbook.

Help Protect Freedom in Arizona by Joining Our Grassroots Network

Arizona needs to have a unified voice promoting economic freedom and prosperity, and the Free Enterprise Club is committed to making that happen. But we can’t do it alone. We need YOU!

Join our FREE Grassroots Action List to stay up to date on the latest battles against big government and how YOU can help influence crucial bills at the Arizona State Legislature.

Free Enterprise Club 2022 Legislative Scorecard Highlights Key Activist Priorities

Free Enterprise Club 2022 Legislative Scorecard Highlights Key Activist Priorities

The Club’s 2022 legislative scorecard (View House of Representatives Scorecard and Senate Scorecard) included a thorough review of 22 bills in the House and 30 bills in the Senate, legislative actions and votes taken by lawmakers this session with an emphasis on the Club’s supported or opposed bills. The methodology included other issues important to our grassroots activists such as good governance reforms, school choice and parental rights, fighting Green New Deal policies, and rejecting corporate welfare.

Issues weighed heavily in the scorecard included bills relating to income tax policy and election integrity, both of which were prime issues for the Club’s agenda for 2022.

Not all legislation was weighted equally but ranked by Club priority. Highly prioritized were bad policies such as the “Build Back Broke” agenda which included bills such as the Maricopa County sales tax increase referral to fund transit projects and other Green New Deal infrastructure projects, the Hollywood tax credit program and other refundable tax credit programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the R&D Tax Credit, and the statewide sales tax increase referral for fire districts.

Club President Scot Mussi expounded, “Our organization was founded to fight for the taxpayer of Arizona. The ability of ‘woke’ corporations to secure major tax carveouts, in some instances zeroing out all tax liability, is a serious threat to a broad-based, low-tax environment for every Arizona family and small business. Our lawmakers shouldn’t be picking winners and losers but representing all Arizona taxpayers.”

Ultimately, several bills became the focus of these efforts and were included in the overall methodology. Here is a sampling of some of the bad bills that were weighed in the 2022 legislative scorecard:

    • SB1708: (motion picture production; tax credit) establishes a refundable tax credit program for businesses and individuals to produce films in Arizona.
    • SB1356: (transportation tax; election; Maricopa County) Referred to voters a half cent sales tax for 25 years to fund predominantly transit and other Green New Deal infrastructure projects in Maricopa County.
    • HB2862: (general appropriations act; 2022-2023) The “feed bill” which is the main appropriation bill for the budget. This year the Club scored this budget bill negatively as the budget turned into a Democrat spending spree with a 40% increase in spending from last year’s budget and was a part of a deal that included many of the “Build Back Broke” bills.
    • SB1018: (earned income; tax credit): Creates a state level refundable earned income tax credit.

Also included in the Club’s legislative priorities were several bills dealing with election integrity. Despite dozens of bills being introduced. these bills were top Club issues the entire session:

    • HB2492: (voter registration; verification; citizenship): bolster safeguards to ensure only legal citizens may register and vote in our elections.
    • HB2617: (voter registration; cancellations; causes): Creates a set of database check requirements for regular voter role maintenance.
    • SB1362: (early ballot on-site tabulation): Sets up a process for counties to allow voters to tabulate their mail-in ballots on election day.
    • SCR1012: (voter identification; voting): A referral to voters to requirement voter ID on mail-in ballots.

Given the rigorous criteria in the Club’s 2022 scorecard, the top performing legislators distinguished themselves as faithful conservatives in the caucus. These members consistently fight for limited government, free market principles, low, smart and fair taxes, and individual liberties. The Club Top performers in the Legislature who have earned an ‘A’ in 2022 included:

Senator Warren PetersenLD 12100%
Senator Michelle Ugenti-RitaLD 2393%
Senator Wendy RogersLD 691%
Rep. Jacqueline ParkerLD 16100%
Rep. Jake HoffmanLD 12100%
Rep. Joseph ChaplikLD 23100%
Rep. Neal CarterLD 8100%
Rep. Travis GranthamLD 12100%
Rep. Beverly PingerelliLD 21100%
Rep. Judy BurgesLD 1100%
Rep. Gail GriffinLD 1491%
Rep. Shawnna BolickLD 2090%
Rep. John FillmoreLD 1690%

You can download the methodology for the House and Senate scorecards here.

The Club also compiled a “term” scorecard which averages the scores from both the 2021 and the 2022 session.

You can view the 2021-2022 Legislative Term scorecard for the Arizona House here.

You can view the 2021-2022 Legislative Term scorecard for the Arizona Senate here.

Help Protect Freedom in Arizona by Joining Our Grassroots Network

Arizona needs to have a unified voice promoting economic freedom and prosperity, and the Free Enterprise Club is committed to making that happen. But we can’t do it alone. We need YOU!

Join our FREE Grassroots Action List to stay up to date on the latest battles against big government and how YOU can help influence crucial bills at the Arizona State Legislature.