Arizona’s Hobbs, Yee clash over $50M Ducey-era school voucher grant
May 25, 2023, 2:15 PM | Updated: 2:43 pm
PHOENIX – Arizona’s Democratic governor and Republican treasurer are butting heads over the legality of a school voucher grant issued by the state’s former Republican governor.
Gov. Katie Hobbs said Wednesday that her predecessor, Doug Ducey, illegally allocated $50 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars to fund all-day kindergarten through the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program.
“Illegally giving $50 million to private schools while failing to properly invest in public education is just one egregious example of the previous administration’s blatant disregard for public school students,” Hobbs said in a press release.
Hobbs sent Treasurer Kimberly Yee’s office a letter saying the grant was illegal and invalid because the state only funds half-day kindergarten for public school students.
Today, we held the Ducey Administration accountable for illegally handing out a $50 million ESA grant. Instead, we're going to put that money to good use.
In my administration, we are committed to ESA accountability, protecting taxpayer dollars, and truly investing in public…
— Governor Katie Hobbs (@GovernorHobbs) May 25, 2023
The first-term governor also said the funding violates state and federal laws and doesn’t meet ARPA requirements because it doesn’t address educational disparities.
Yee responded Thursday by calling the decision “politically driven and belligerent.”
Governor Hobbs has just denied thousands of Arizona kids access to kindergarten through this politically driven and belligerent decision.
— Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Yee (@AZTreasurerYee) May 25, 2023
“As has become the norm for this governor, my office first learned of her action through a press release prior to receiving the letter, and we have yet to receive any communication from the governor or her team on this matter more than this letter,” Yee said in a statement.
“Our legal team is currently reviewing the lawfulness of the governor’s move and determining the next steps.”
Hobbs, meanwhile, said her office is evaluating other ways to use the $50 million.
Last summer, Ducey signed a bill to make all Arizona K-12 students eligible for the ESA program, which allows taxpayer dollars to be used for private school tuition and other educational expenses. Opponents say the program lacks oversight and siphons too much money away from public schools.
Democrats were hoping Hobbs would be able negotiate limits on ESA costs in her first budget, but she signed a $17.8 billion spending plan earlier this month that didn’t address the issue.