Repeal SB1431, support Save Our Schools Arizona Petition (Opinion Column)

In this past legislative session Senate Bill (SB) 1431, which was deceptively entitled the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) voucher program, was passed. It did nothing to empower Arizona’s public education system. Actually, these ESA vouchers will take away many millions of dollars from the public education system of Arizona’s children, which we cannot afford.

To avoid this public education disaster, Save Our Schools Arizona (SOS Arizona) is seeking to refer SB1431 – the ESA (voucher) expansion bill by way of a referendum petition, to the voters of Arizona in 2018. If SB1431 is referred to the ballot, then we can finally vote against this big government give away to the elite interest groups.

If the voters of Arizona do not act, this public education fiasco will happen. Vouchers are predicted to redirect millions in taxpayer funds from the public education budget that any Arizona family can attend, and redistribute these funds to pay for elite K-12 private school tuition instead of helping regular families.  These voucher will take money away from our already underfunded schools.  Adequate funding for public schools is crucial to educational success.  The overwhelming majority of 95% of Arizona families choose public schools.

In order to successfully achieve a ballot referendum on SB1431 – ESA vouchers, it will be necessary to gather 76,000 valid signatures by July 31st. This petition effort is currently in process. If you are against SB1431, it is important to give what you can to defeat this measure. All registered Arizona voters are eligible to sign the anti-SB 1431 petition. It is crucially important to sign this petition and give what support you can.

 Some people have time to gather signatures, and others are able to donate money to this worthy cause. Personally, I gave money to this educational improvement effort because I looked at it as way to improve the education of my young sons. My donation to SOS Arizona was worth every penny. More information on how to get involved is available at http://saveourschoolsarizona.org and https://www.facebook.com/SaveOurSchoolsArizona.

In my Legislative District 18 (LD 18), we are honored to have the inspirational legislative leadership provided by State Senator Sean Bowie and State Representative Mitzi Epstein. Both of these lawmakers who opposed SB 1431 at every opportunity. In contrast to this inspirational opposition to SB1431, LD 18 State Representative Legislator Jill Norgaard voted to pander to the elitist interests at the expense of our children’s educational system.

If the Arizona system of public education is going to be able to survive in a viable fashion, it will be important to have more state legislators like State Senator Sean Bowie and State Representative Mitzi Epstein, and less legislators like State Representative Jill Norgaard.

The effort to get 76,000 valid signatures against SB1431 by July 31st, will be a formidable one. If enough valid signatures are gathered, more resources will be needed to campaign against SB 1431 in the 2018 general election, and to campaign against the lawmakers who voted for it. This entire effort will not be easy, but to accept the educational damage that SB 1431 represents, is not an acceptable alternative.

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Mario Martinez

Mario Martinez is a long term Tempe resident. He is married and his children attend Kyrene Elementary District.

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