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School voucher-backing group runs ‘thank you’ ads in Arizona

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PHOENIX — A national group vocally backing school voucher expansion in Arizona ran television ads during a political talk show over the weekend thanking Republican Gov. Doug Ducey and GOP lawmakers who voted for the legislation.

The Arizona spokeswoman for the American Federation for Children said Monday the group spent about $5,000 on the ad. It was repeated three times during KPNX-TV’s “Sunday Square Off” show.

[Note: This ad on the group’s Facebook targeted Arizona Rep. Maria Syms. It is part of a series of videos that thanked Ducey and other Republican lawmakers for their vote on school vouchers.]

The ad features schoolchildren thanking Ducey and lawmakers who backed the universal voucher bill enacted earlier this month. All 1.1 million Arizona schoolchildren will be eligible, although the program is capped at 30,000 participants after 2022.

Spokeswoman Kim Martinez said Monday the group has no immediate plans for more TV ads but is running a social media campaign. The ad didn’t name the American Federation for Children, but had the group’s logo.

Martinez said the ad wasn’t political, even though Ducey and all 90 legislators are up for re-election next year. She said the children featured in the ad use the “Empowerment Scholarship Account” program and wanted to help say thank you to supporters.

“There’s no electioneering involved in this — it was a simple thank you to the state of Arizona for trying to further school choice options for kids,’ Martinez said. “It was just a general thank-you. It’s not tied to us trying to influence passage of anything because that’s already happened.”

The ad came just days after the group’s thank you lunch for lawmakers was cancelled by House Speaker J.D. Mesnard because tensions are still running high over the voucher expansion.

Democrats and a handful of Republicans opposed the expansion, which passed with only Republican support in both the House and Senate on April 6 and was immediately signed by Ducey.

Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato had no comment on the ad, but re-iterated the governor’s support for school vouchers.

“He’s pleased that the policy impacts real kids that will be able to have more options for education in Arizona as a result of this policy,” he said.

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