Katie Hobbs says she has opposed school vouchers in Arizona from the start
PHOENIX — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs says she has opposed school vouchers in Arizona for over a decade because she was concerned about how the program would evolve.
Hobbs voted against a bill in 2011 that established the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program, which was created to expand educational options outside of public school for students with disabilities.
Arizona’s current governor, Republican Doug Ducey, signed a bill in the most recent legislative session for universal ESAs.
“I didn’t support it then because I knew it would lead to continued expansion until it got to this point,” Hobbs, who was serving in the Arizona House in 2011, said Tuesday in an interview with PBS.
“This voucher system we are under now doesn’t provide real choice in educational opportunity for most families. It diverts resources from public schools and provides a subsidy for already wealthy children whose parents could already afford private education for them.”
The Arizona Department of Education said that 23,502 applications for universal ESAs had been received as of Oct. 5, 80% of which were for students with no previous record in the public school system.
Opponents of school vouchers, like Hobbs, also have expressed concerns that a chunk of public school funding would go toward private school funding.
The expansion gives every family in Arizona the option of taking up to around $7,000 per student in public funds that would have gone to the K-12 public school system and use it for private school tuition, homeschool materials or other education costs.
ESAs were previously available only to students who met certain criteria, including having a disability, living on a tribal reservation or attending a failing school.
Hobbs believes keeping that money in public schools is the way to go.
“There are always going to be kids stuck in those schools,” Hobbs said. “Until we invest in those schools and make sure every student gets quality public education, we’re going to have the same issue.
“The voucher system does not fix that at all.”