ARIZONA EDUCATION NEWS

GOP slams Gov. Katie Hobbs’ stance on ESA accountability day of State of the State 2024 speech

Jan 9, 2024, 4:05 AM | Updated: 8:31 am

State of the State 2024 speech...

ESA advocated protested on the Arizona Capitol lawn before Gov. Katie Hobbs delivered her speech Monday. (Balin Overstolz McNair Photo/Serena O'Sullivan Photo)

(Balin Overstolz McNair Photo/Serena O'Sullivan Photo)

PHOENIX — Despite calls for cooperation, Arizona’s next legislative session is starting with conflict over ESA vouchers. Republicans voiced their disagreement with Gov. Katie Hobbs’ position before and after her State of the State 2024 speech on Monday afternoon.

Advocates for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) kicked off the day with a 10:30 a.m. rally on the Capitol lawn. They carried signs with messages like “Thriving with ESA,” “We don’t co-parent with the government” and “Keep Katie’s hands off my future.”

The rally came on the heels of Hobbs’ Jan. 2 announcement of an eight-point plan to regulate and monitor the ESA program.

Arizona State Senator Jake Hoffman, who represents Arizona’s 15th district, spoke during the Monday morning rally.

“We’re here today to talk about Katie Hobbs’ abhorrent plan to regulate by death by a thousand cuts the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts out of existence,” Hoffman said.

Vouchers have helped hundreds of thousands of people while government-run schools fail Arizona children, he added.

“Katie Hobbs and Arizona democrats want to force children into a failing educational model that is currently leaving 62% of our state’s children lacking grade-level proficiency,” Hoffman said.

Arizona Speaker of the House opposes governor’s stance on ESA accountability

Arizona Speaker of the House Ben Toma spoke out against Hobbs’ education stance before she entered the House floor. However, Hobbs reinforced her desire to rein in ESAs during her State of the State 2024 speech.

“We must address the lack of accountability and transparency in Arizona’s ESA program,” Hobbs said during her 2 p.m. address.

She cited various “unacceptable” uses of taxpayer money under the program, including ski passes, luxury car driving lessons and water park admissions.

“It is our responsibility as stewards of this state to put in place guardrails to ensure taxpayer dollars dedicated to education are used properly,” Hobbs said. “Without these guardrails, waste, fraud and abuse take root and thrive.”

In response, Toma and Arizona Senate President Warren Petersen released a 4-minute video. They critiqued her policies on housing, immigration and education.

GOP rebuttal came 2 hours after Hobbs’ State of the State 2024 speech

Toma referred to her ESA stance as an “outrageous assault” on Arizona parents and children.

Toma said he wanted to protect the ability for every child in the state to be in a great school — not trapped in a bad one. He added that he wanted to drain the “politics and virtue signaling” out of the classroom and focus on reading, writing, math and civics.

“This program has garnered national recognition for education excellence,” Toma said. “I will not allow roll back or limit enabled academic achievements for thousands of Arizona kids, no matter their ZIP code or household income.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Balin Overstolz McNair contributed to this report.

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GOP slams Gov. Katie Hobbs’ stance on ESA accountability day of State of the State 2024 speech