Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs says school voucher expansion leaves many behind

Feb 13, 2023, 4:35 AM

PHOENIX —  Among contentions between Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs and a Republican-controlled State Legislature is education, specifically the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program.

Hobbs’ budget proposal called for a repeal of the expansion signed by former Gov. Doug Ducey in July 2022, but Republican Arizona Senate President Warren Petersen told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show soon after that won’t happen.

Hobbs went on Fox News Sunday to discuss the southern border and education. When pressed about the ESA program gifting families opportunities to send children to private schools, the governor said the program is not benefitting families Peterson claims they are.

“We’re not calling for a repeal of the entire program, we’re just calling for a repeal of the universal expansion,” Hobbs said. “The folks President Peterson cited … they’re not actually benefitting from this program, there’s no evidence showing that. For the most part, these families, regardless of getting a private school voucher, they’re not able to afford the gap in tuition that exists with this program.”

Hobbs said families in financial states that allow them to pay for private school are the ones benefiting. The system allows parent in Arizona the choice of taking public money for the K-12 public school system and spending it on private school tuition. Families are able to use more than $6,500 per student each year on expenses.

The governor argued that the public school system, which she said approximately 80% of Arizonans choose, is getting depleted of resources which creates an unfair balance.

Fox News’ Shannon Bream brought up a criticism from Arizona House Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci had that Hobbs went to private school.

Hobbs said that decision her family made was difficult and there were times she was on food stamps.

“What I want is for every student in the state of Arizona no matter where they live to have access to high quality public education,” Hobbs said. “With this universal voucher system, that’s not happening.”

Bream countered by asking Hobbs if she felt more students should have access to private school grants considering her background and problem within the public school system, and Hobbs said a lack of investment in public education is the cause for the difficulties.

The Arizona Department of Education said nearly 47,000 students were using the program as of Feb. 6.

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Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs says school voucher expansion leaves many behind