Arizona Senate president on school voucher repeal: ‘Not going to happen’

Jan 17, 2023, 11:54 AM | Updated: 12:20 pm
Arizona Senate President Warren Petersen looks on as Gov. Katie Hobbs delivers her the State of the...
Arizona Senate President Warren Petersen looks on as Gov. Katie Hobbs delivers her the State of the State address on Jan. 9, 2023. (Facebook Photo/Governor Katie Hobbs)
(Facebook Photo/Governor Katie Hobbs)

PHOENIX — Arizona Senate President Warren Petersen said the Republican-led Legislature won’t let Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs roll back the state’s universal school voucher program.

Hobbs’ budget proposal, released last week, calls for repealing last year’s expansion of the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program.

“It’s not going to happen,” Petersen, a Republican, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Tuesday. “You need the Legislature to make it happen.”

In July 2022, then-Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, signed a law that gives every parent in Arizona the option of taking public money earmarked for the K-12 public school system and spending it on their children’s private school tuition, homeschool materials or other education costs.

The Arizona Department of Education said nearly 46,000 students were using the program as of Tuesday. An official with the department’s previous administration told KTAR News recently that about 75% of the applicants had no prior record of attending public schools in Arizona.

Opponents of the expansion argue that it lacks oversight and diverts much-needed funding from public schools. They also say it primarily benefits families wealthy enough to afford private school expenses above what the ESAs cover.

In 2018, Arizona voters rejected a similar voucher expansion by a 65%-35% margin. An effort to delay last year’s expansion until it could go before voters in 2024 fell short of the required signature threshold.

The ESA program was previously limited to children with special needs, students at low-performing schools, military families and residents of Native American reservations. Hobbs wants to return it to that level.

During her first State of the State address last week, Hobbs said the expansion will cost Arizona $1.5 billion over the next decade and “will likely bankrupt the state.”

Petersen said there is no way Hobbs can undo the expansion without the Legislature’s approval. Republicans hold slim advantages in each chamber, 31-29 in the House and 16-14 in the Senate.

“We are the most powerful branch of government, and I can tell you that this isn’t going to go away without us allowing that to happen,” the East Valley Republican said.

Petersen said Hobbs’ proposal could alienate voters on both sides of the aisle.

“It would be a huge debacle and mistake for her to eliminate the ESA program because you have a ton of minorities and you have ton of low-income people — you have a lot of her base — that benefit very much from the ESA — and from our base, from all of our base,” he said.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Facebook File Photo/Phoenix Police Department )...

Phoenix police seek man who fled scene of fatal multi-vehicle wreck

Police are seeking a man who fled the scene after he was involved in a fatal multi-vehicle accident Saturday night, authorities said.
14 hours ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

NFL offering free CPR training during Super Bowl week

The NFL and American Heart Association will provide free CPR education in Arizona throughout Super Bowl week as part of the NFL Experience.
14 hours ago
(AP Photo)...

Glendale ranks 4th in study of worst commutes in US

In a new study of U.S. cities, Glendale ranks fourth in terms of the nation's worst commutes.
14 hours ago
An IRS 1040 form, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, is shown on Thursday, April 5, 2018, in New Yo...

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide provides free income tax prep assistance in Arizona

One taxpayer assistance option available is the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, which is providing free tax assistance and preparation in Arizona.
14 hours ago
(Arizona Game and Fish Department Photo)...
Alex Weiner

Sonoran pronghorn population in Arizona makes leaps after AZGFD partnership with Mexico

The Sonoran pronghorn native to Arizona was on the cusp of extinction in the United States with 21 individuals in the wild in 2002.
14 hours ago
(Jim Poulin/Phoenix Business Journal)...
Ron Davis/Phoenix Business Journal

Radix Law partner helps launch ride-share carts in Scottsdale ahead of Super Bowl LVII

In a matter of weeks, those looking for a ride will be able to call for one through a mobile app to take them through Scottsdale's entertainment district at no charge.
14 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
Arizona Senate president on school voucher repeal: ‘Not going to happen’