Several leaders and education advocates are denouncing Governor Katie Hobbs’ reversal of funding Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) for kindergarten. Hobbs reversed the grant of $50 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act last week, which previous Governor Doug Ducey awarded for private school students to use.
Hobbs said in a statement that Ducey made the transfer “despite the fact that the State funds only half-day kindergarten for public school students.” However, State Representative Matt Gress (R-Phoenix), who served in the Ducey administration prior to becoming a legislator, said on the James T. Harris Show, “95 percent of public district and charter schools offer full day kindergarten using public tax dollars. So Governor Ducey saw this as a matter of fairness to provide full-day K to as many Arizona kids as possible. … It would have helped over 4,000 kindergarteners next school year.”
He added, “Governor Hobbs isn’t right, and I had a chance to look at the letter from her budget director, my successor. And her action is clearly unlawful. There is a contract in place, it’s legal, it’s binding, and my determination is that the grants need to go to the parents.”
FACT: 95% of all public schools in Arizona currently provide Full Day K. pic.twitter.com/bgx3X3kzEa
— Matt Gress (@MatthewGress) May 26, 2023
Hobbs claimed the funding was illegal, and that it “violates multiple constitutional provisions, including on equal protection, the gift clause, and maintenance of a general and uniform public school system.” She said the transfer came while the state is “failing to properly invest in public education,” but she just signed a budget that satisfied herself with education funding. Spending on education has increased greatly around the country due to COVID-19 relief funds.
Kari Lake tweeted, “.@katiehobbs just declared war on school choice in Arizona. In under a year, our ESA program has produced historic results for Arizona families. Hobbs wants to strip that funding away & redistribute it to her radical cronies.”
.@katiehobbs just declared war on school choice in Arizona.
In under a year, our ESA program has produced historic results for Arizona families.
Hobbs wants to strip that funding away & redistribute it to her radical cronies.https://t.co/xWMTERapv2
— Kari Lake (@KariLake) May 25, 2023
Kari Lake War Room added, “.@katiehobbs is punishing Arizona families to try to regain political equity with her radical base. Hobbs nixes full-day kindergarten funding for ESA students.”
.@katiehobbs is punishing Arizona families to try to regain political equity with her radical base.
"Hobbs nixes full-day kindergarten funding for ESA students."https://t.co/BjtzuzIiZt
— Kari Lake War Room (@KariLakeWarRoom) May 28, 2023
The account also pointed out that Hobbs suggested that Attorney General Kris Mayes investigate the ESA program, prompting an outcry from Republican lawmakers.
“She also called on her crony @krismayes to investigate @DougDucey. We guess targeting political opposition is the unity that she was talking about.”
Abe Hamadeh, who like Lake is still challenging his election loss in court, tweeted, “Katie is wrong. Kris Mayes and Katie Hobbs are targeting minority children who are trying to escape failing schools. They are lawless and heartless.”
Katie is wrong. Kris Mayes and Katie Hobbs are targeting minority children who are trying to escape failing schools. They are lawless and heartless. https://t.co/ubB8z2IHm9
— Abe Hamadeh (@AbrahamHamadeh) May 25, 2023
Some detractors on Twitter accused ESAs of primarily benefiting whites. However, Jen Wright, an elections attorney representing Hamadeh, tweeted, “Minority families are rushing to ESAs,” including a chart showing that over 70 percent of black teachers and parents in Arizona support ESAs.
Fact check: True.
Minority families are rushing to ESAs. Follow @ForumMothers for more information.
Some pretty amazing polling data here: https://t.co/xPM1up7mU6
— Jen Wright (@JenWEsq) May 25, 2023
Wright responded to Hobbs’ tweet about the reversal, “Why do you want to take away grants from minority-owned education providers? @ForumMothers received $3.5 mil in education grants from @DougDucey to create new microschools,” she tweeted.
— Jen Wright (@JenWEsq) May 25, 2023
Attorney Josh Offenhartz, who is educated in public administration, noted the hypocrisy, “Arizona education advocates have been pushing for fully funded all day kindergarten for decades.”
Arizona education advocates have been pushing for fully funded all day kindergarten for decades. Group understood incremental gains were better than no gains. Sadly, Gov. Hobbs wants to undo some of those gains.
— Josh Offenhartz (@Johartz) May 26, 2023
Laurie Todd-Smith, director of Education Opportunity for the America First Policy Institute, tweeted why all-day kindergarten is important.
“In 2022, only 30% of Arizona 4th graders were proficient in reading, and only 15% of high school graduates met all four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks,” she said.
In 2022, only 30% of Arizona 4th graders were proficient in reading, and only 15% of high school graduates met all four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks. Governor Hobbs has just denied thousands of 5-year-old children the benefits of full-day kindergarten. Manipulating access to… https://t.co/vFxCafpaa5
— Laurie Todd-Smith (@Laurietoddsmith) May 26, 2023
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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Katie Hobbs” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Photo “Doug Ducey” by Governor Doug Ducey. Background Photo “Arizona Capitol” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.