Arizona Extends School Choice to All K-12 Students

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

“This session, let’s expand school choice any way we can,” declared Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in his State of the State address on Jan. 10, “Let’s think big and find more ways to get kids into the school of their parent’s choice. Send me the bills, and I’ll sign them.”

The Arizona Legislature on Friday night answered Ducey’s call, passing a bill to expand eligibility for the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (also known as education savings accounts or ESAs) to all K-12 students.

Once signed into law, Arizona will reclaim its title as the state with the “most expansive ESA” policy in the nation.

Empowerment Scholarship Accounts empower families with the freedom and flexibility to customize their child’s education. Arizona families can currently use ESAs to pay for private school tuition, tutoring, textbooks, homeschool curriculums, online courses, educational therapy, and more.

The ESAs are funded with 90% of the state portion of Arizona’s per-pupil funding, including the additional funds for students with special needs.

Currently, about a quarter of elementary and secondary students in Arizona are eligible for an ESA, including students with special needs, students assigned to low-performing district schools, the children of active-duty military personnel, and a few other categories of students.

The Arizona Senate passed HB 2853 on Friday night on a vote of 16 to 10. Earlier in the week, the Arizona House of Representatives passed it by a margin of 31 to 26.

In 2011, Arizona became the first state to enact an ESA policy. Originally, the ESAs were limited only to students with special needs, but state lawmakers have repeatedly expanded the policy over the past decade.

There are now more than 10,000 students benefiting from the ESA policy in Arizona and about 31,000 ESA students in 10 states nationwide.

Last year, West Virginia wrested the “most expansive ESA” title away from Arizona with the enactment of its Hope Scholarship policy, which provides ESAs to all students either switching out of a public school or entering kindergarten.

Once Ducey, a Republican, signs the ESA expansion into law, Arizona will regain its “most expansive ESA” distinction, because the accounts will be available to all students, regardless of what type of school they had been attending.

As a Goldwater Institute report demonstrated, the ESA policy especially benefits students from low-income families. The typical (non-special education) award of about $6,600 covers the median elementary private school tuition and about two-thirds of the median private high school tuition.

Although Arizona does not collect data about the income levels of participating families, the Goldwater Institute looked at data on the geographic distribution of participants and found that “ESA students come from school districts with above-average and below-average poverty rates at broadly equal rates and in virtually identical proportions as traditional public school students overall.”

Additionally, the report found that “the highest concentrations of ESA usage actually occur in the most severely economically disadvantaged communities in Arizona.” Eight out of the 10 districts with the highest share of ESA students statewide have higher-than-average rates of child poverty, and the top three have child poverty rates that are more than double the state average.

The ESAs are extremely popular. According to a Morning Consult survey, 66% of Arizonans and 75% of Arizona parents of K-12 students support the ESA policy.

Nevertheless, opponents of education choice claim that, recent polls notwithstanding, the voters revealed their opposition to a universal ESA policy when they voted by an almost two-to-one margin in 2018 against Prop 305, which also would have expanded Arizona’s ESAs to all students.

However, divining the will of the voters is not so simple. Unlike the current proposal, Prop 305 had a cap on the number of students who could participate. Since the state’s Voter Protection Act requires a supermajority of at least three-fourths of the legislature to make changes to a law passed by the voters on the ballot, even ESA proponents such as the American Federation for Children opposed the measure, as it would have rendered the current program—participation caps and all—essentially set in stone.

Other critics of the program have raised concerns about the quality of education that ESA children receive. “We will not know if students are using our tax dollars … to learn anything,” fretted Democratic state Rep. Kelli Butler.

Proponents of education choice counter that the accountability under the ESA policy is even higher than in traditional district schools. “Parents are the ultimate accountability, not government,” said House Majority Leader Ben Toma, a Republican, the sponsor of the ESA expansion bill. “They know what’s best for their children, and we should trust them to do the right thing.’’

Arizona lawmakers are right to trust families. Arizona has long been a pioneer in education choice—enacting nation’s first tax-credit scholarship policy in 1997, in addition to the first ESA—and the investment in education choice is paying off.

Despite doomsday predictions about the effects that education choice would have on student performance, Arizona has led the nation in gains on the National Assessment of Education Progress over the past two decades.

When families are empowered to choose the learning environment that works best for their children and that aligns with their values, everyone benefits.

Once again, Arizona is setting an example that other states should emulate.

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This article was published by The Daily Signal and is reproduced with permission.

Fallout for Tucson: The Perfect Storm of the Supreme Court Decision

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

At a minimum, it will lead to boycotts against my home state of Arizona and hometown of Tucson.

 

You aren’t interested in my opinion of the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling or whether I’m pro-life or pro-choice. Likewise, I’m not interested in telling you.

But both of us should be interested in the fact that the decision will add turbulence to the existing perfect storm of a deeply divided polity, high inflation, unsustainable deficits, underfunded entitlements, a looming energy crisis, a broken border policy, skyrocketing drug addictions and deaths, global supply shortages, heightened geopolitical tensions, and an ossified central government that has become too big, bumbling and bureaucratic to do much about any of these problems.

At a minimum, the decision will lead to counterproductive boycotts.

I’m referring to companies being pressured by angry pro-choice employees and customers not to hold conferences or establish headquarters or major facilities in states that enact additional restrictions on abortion. Similar pressure will be put on sports leagues not to hold championship games in those states.

After all, politics now permeates the workplace and the sports field. 

Some rich companies have already decided to pay the travel costs of employees if they want to travel from a restrictive state to a less-restrictive state for an abortion.  It is not known if companies will try to cover this under a tax-deductible employee benefit plan. Should they try, and should the IRS permit the tax deduction, it would mean that pro-life taxpayers would be subsidizing the travel costs.  

If, as expected, my home state of Arizona were to enact a more restrictive abortion law, any resulting boycotts could hurt my hometown of Tucson. That would be ironic and particularly painful.

The pain would come from the fact that Tucson, which has a significant tourism industry, is a poor city with a poverty rate twice the national average. Boycotts would hurt it more than they would hurt wealthier cities.

The irony would come from the fact that Tucson is predominately Democrat and left-liberal, the very same political party/class that undoubtedly would lead a boycott effort. In that sense, the activists would be hurting their own people economically.

Complicating the politics is the fact that Latinos comprise 43% of the Tucson population. Most of them are Catholic and thus opposed to abortion, at least to the extent that they follow Church dogma. They also tend to be poorer than the general population.

It will be interesting to see how all of this shakes out politically. Even before the Supreme Court’s decision, the Tucson city council, at the urging of Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, had passed a resolution saying that the city will not make arrests at abortion clinics, even if abortion were to be declared illegal.

Three outcomes are certain: Abortion will be in the local and national news for years to come, will continue to be a fault line in American politics and will add turbulence to the perfect storm.

 

 

Arizona News – June 27, 2022

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The Prickly Pear will provide current, linked articles about Arizona consistent with our Mission Statement to ‘inform, educate and advocate’. We are an Arizona based website and believe this information should be available to all of our statewide readers.

 

Armed GOP Lawmakers Defended State Capitol From Pro-Abortion Insurrectionists

Abortion Protest Turns To Riot, Leaving “Significant Criminal Damage”

State attorneys general ask Department of Justice to investigate violence against pro-life groups

Ducey To Sign Toma Bill Which Expands ESAs To All K-12 Students

Arizona GOP sends Ducey universal school choice bill

Arizona lawmakers pass bipartisan $18 billion budget

Arizona’s State Budget Proves That MAG’s Proposed $70 Billion ‘Momentum’ Plan Is a Complete Failure

Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Unveils ‘Clean’ Energy Plan

Strong Families for All Are Worth Defending

Scottsdale Unified Leadership Accused Of Weaponizing “Inclusion” To Attack Concerned Parents

Rusty Bowers Has No Business Testifying Before January 6 Committee

 

 

 

Abortion Protest Locks Down Lawmakers Inside Arizona Capitol, Tear Gas Deployed

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

Protesters angry about Friday morning’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling released some frustration at the state Capitol building in Phoenix later that evening.

Several hundred protesters gathered at the doors of the Capitol as the Legislature was finishing up its legislative session.

A short time later, protesters could be seen on a video taken by Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, hitting windows and kicking open glass doors, prompting Arizona’s Department of Public Safety to intervene. 

From videos taken outside of the Capitol, police officers stationed on a balcony were seen deploying tear gas into the crowd.

Security could be seen informing lawmakers that they would have to take precautionary measures. Arizona DPS began ushering them and others into the Capitol lobby.

“While Arizona State Senate members were wrapping up passing important legislation for the session, extremist demonstrators made their way to the entrance of the Senate building and began forcibly trying to make entry by breaking windows and pushing down doors,” a statement from the state Senate read.

According to a statement from a Senate official, none of the protestors made it into the building.

Senate President Karen Fann celebrated law enforcement’s quick response to what could have been a dangerous situation.

“We are incredibly thankful for our local law enforcement who quickly intervened during what could have been a destructive and dangerous situation for our members, staff, and public inside the Senate,” said Fann. “Violence is never the answer, and we will not camouflage what was a blatant attempt at an insurrection as a ‘rally’ or ‘peaceful protest.’ We are calling on all state lawmakers to condemn these acts. There is a way to make your voice heard and violence is never the answer.”

Due to residual tear gas making it into the Senate chambers via the building’s ventilation system, lawmakers finished their business and ended the session in another room.

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This article was published by the Center Square and is reproduced with permission.

Report: Red Tape Feeds Forest Fires Like Arizona’s Pipeline Fire

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

A new report has determined that certain climate protection policies may make wildfires worse.

The Property and Environmental Research Center is concerned that projects reducing wildfire severity are being delayed for years by the National Environmental Policy Act, a means of review and litigation.

The new report from PERC proves the fallacy of NEPA. According to their findings, prescribed burns take 7.2 years to process through “environmental impact assessment projects,” and an even lengthier 9.4 years with “litigated” EIS projects. Similarly, mechanical thinning takes 5.3 years with EIS projects and 6.8 years with litigated EIS projects.

The EIS process on the Environmental Protection Agency website describes obtaining an EIS statement as a multi-step process. First, an agency must publish a Notice of Intent, which “informs the public of the upcoming environmental analysis and describes how the public can become involved in the EIS preparation.” From there, “the federal agency and the public collaborate to define the range of issues and potential alternatives to be addressed in the EIS.” 

The second step is “a draft EIS is published for public review and comment for a minimum of 45 days.” 

If that draft passes public scrutiny, “Publication of the final EIS begins the minimum 30-day ‘wait period,’ in which agencies are generally required to wait 30 days before making a final decision on a proposed action.” 

Finally, “the EIS process ends with the issuance of the Record of Decision.” Occasionally, a supplement draft is required.

Though EIS, which is required through NEPA, intends to make forestry a more democratic act, PERC believes that it is ultimately harming the communities it intends to protect. The policy’s red tape prevents substantive action from taking place within the grounds of time necessary.

“The Forest Service is mired in paperwork while the forests literally burn before our eyes,” said Jonathan Wood, Vice President of Law and Policy at PERC. “Reforms to the environmental review process are critical if America is to tackle the wildfire crisis.”

PERC stated, “The U.S. Forest Service set a goal to restore an additional 20 million acres over the next 10 years using these [mechanical thinning and controlled burns] techniques, but the report finds that unlikely without changes.”

Nearly two million acres have already burned or are burning in 2022. As dead trees and underbrush pile up, along with historic drought and imminent climate change, quick environmental action will become increasingly necessary.

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This article was published by The Center Square and is reproduced with permission.

Scottsdale Official Faces Board Expulsion After Arizona AG Files Suit

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School Board member Jann-Michael Greenburg is facing potential removal from the Scottsdale Unified School District school board.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court, arguing that Greenburg should be required to step down from the board after multiple violations of public hearing requirements.

Brnovich said Monday the lawsuit’s goal is to, “…seek to have Greenburg removed, impose civil penalties on the board, and ensure no future Open Meeting Law (OML) violations occur.”

The lawsuit takes place after a series of meetings in August 2021, when Greenburg, “knowingly structuring an agenda and meeting so as to prohibit public comment about a proposed mask mandate and other subjects…” the complaint read.

Greenburg faced scrutiny by school district officials and the Scottsdale Police Department for his alleged involvement in keeping and sharing a set of online files containing personal information of parents who opposed the board’s COVID-19 mitigations, including information on some of their children. Greenburg’s father, Michael Greenburg, was allegedly the proprietor of the information. Neither organization found any reasons to pursue charges.

The school board voted to remove Greenburg from his position as president in November 2021, with some recommending he resign.

The suit stated Greenburg created content restrictions during board meetings, cutting off speakers when they strayed too far from the topic of the instructional time model. Similarly, Greenburg interrupted multiple parents, going as far as to conclude with profanity directed at the parents.

Though criticism of parents’ remarks is allowed, it must be done after the close of the open call to the public.

Creating content restrictions as well as interrupting speakers is considered a violation of the school board meeting code, thus breaking the Scottsdale Unified School District Number 48’s rule, “…to open the conduct of the business of government to the scrutiny of the public and to band decision-making in secret.”

If Brnovich wins, Greenburg could face expulsion from the Scottsdale school board. As described by the case document, “The Open Meeting Law further provides that in such a suit ‘the court may remove the public officer from office.’”

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This article was published by The Center Square and is reproduced with permission.

Arizona News – June 21, 2022

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The Prickly Pear will provide current, linked articles about Arizona consistent with our Mission Statement to ‘inform, educate and advocate’. We are an Arizona based website and believe this information should be available to all of our statewide readers.

Brnovich Lawsuit Against Hobbs’s Election Manual Fails Due to Tardiness

Election Director’s Choice Of Poll Workers Scrutinized For Questioning Applicants’ Political Ideology

Horne Cannot Deny His Role In Ushering In Common Core Standards

Scottsdale School Board Member Latest To Be Accused Of Violating State Laws

Phoenix BLM Canceled First Annual Juneteenth Event, Citing Low Interest

Universal school choice moves forward in Arizona

Under new law, Arizona students will learn history of communism

Maricopa County lowers property taxes to stimulate economy

Arizona Republican candidates have raised $23 million more than Democrats

Arizona Public School Includes Medical Intake Form For Gender-Affirming Hormone Therapy In Student Records

 

Arizona Becomes the 19th State to Ban Warrantless Searches of Prescription Drug Database

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

On June 8, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) signed SB 1469 into law. Introduced by Senator Nancy Barto (R‑Phoenix), the bill requires law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before perusing the state’s prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) database, administered by the Arizona Board of Pharmacy. The bill passed unanimously through both houses of the state legislature. Until now, law enforcement could inspect the PDMP database without a warrant by simply stating in writing that the information is necessary for an open investigation or complaint. The new law further states that if, upon perusing the database, police find no evidence of a statutory crime but believe a practitioner’s prescribing patterns fall outside the norms, they may only report the matter to the relevant state licensing board for possible investigation. State medical licensing boards conduct investigations using members of the medical profession who understand the variations and nuances of clinical situations, and the practitioner under investigation is afforded due process.

This is an important reform. As panelists explained at a Cato conference in 2019, while PDMPs have succeeded in pressuring practitioners to reduce opioid prescribing (down more than 60 percent since its peak in 2011), they primarily serve as a law enforcement tool. They have not reduced the overdose rate–if anything, PDMPs have driven non-medical users who are unable to obtain diverted prescription pain pills to more dangerous drugs in the black market, such as heroin or fentanyl, causing the overdose rate to increase.

With countless stories in the mainstream press about doctors arrested, sometimes with police bursting into their crowded waiting rooms, or having their licenses suspended for “overprescribing” prescription opioids—even though there is no legal definition of “overprescribing”—many doctors have been frightened into curtailing their pain medicine prescribing. Some are refusing to see patients for pain altogether and referring them to pain management specialists, many of whose practices have long waits for appointments because they are inundated with referrals. Some pain clinics refuse to see new patients. Some patients, in desperation, seek relief in the dangerous black market. Some resort to suicide. Some exasperated patients threaten their doctors. Some even resort to murdering their doctors.

The goal of SB 1469 is to protect the Fourth Amendment rights of patients and doctors. Hopefully, as police discover they cannot go on fishing expeditions through private medical records without convincing a judge to issue a search warrant—and if they can’t dictate how to practice medicine by arresting doctors for what they perceive as “inappropriate” prescribing—the new law will help thaw the chilling effect cast upon doctors treating their patients’ pain.

Arizona has now become the 19th state to enact this search warrant requirement. It joins states as diverse as Alaska, Montana, Missouri, Utah, California, New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Unfortunately, Rhode Island repealed its search warrant requirement in 2017.

In 2019 Drug Enforcement Administration investigators wished to inspect the New Hampshire PDMP and were rebuffed, pursuant to New Hampshire law that requires a search warrant. The DEA claimed the requirement did not apply to the federal agency. The New Hampshire PDMP lost its argument in front of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire and appealed to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The American Civil Liberties Union filed an amicus brief supporting the appellant. In January of this year, the appeals court upheld the trial court’s opinion, ruling the DEA can access a state’s prescription drug database without a warrant. The state of New Hampshire petitioned for an en banc rehearing in March, which was denied in mid-April. New Hampshire next sought a stay of the appeals court decision pending the filing of a certiorari petition in the U.S. Supreme Court, implying the state intends to appeal to the Supreme Court. The state has until mid-July to file the cert petition.

Regardless of the federal case’s outcome, state and local law enforcement remain subject to the search warrant requirement. And while the DEA may be the giant gorilla in the room, state-level efforts to protect the privacy of medical records and the patient-doctor relationship is a welcome step in the right direction. Arizona’s legislators and governor deserve praise for enacting SB 1469.

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This article was published by Cato Blog and is reproduced with permission.

Arizona News – June 14, 2022

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Maricopa County Tells Residents ‘Educate Yourself’ on LGBTQ+ Ideology

Scottsdale School Club Implementing Controversial Sexuality, Anti-Racist Programming

“Diversity” Requirements: NAU Has Replaced Academic Rigor With Indoctrination

None of Arizona’s Three Universities Ranked Within Top 100 of Best National Universities

Hospital Visitation Right Passes Arizona Senate Without Opposition

A Gas Tax Holiday Is a Gimmicky Talking Point with No Real Long-Term Benefit

West Valley Candidate’s Life Story Inspires Conservative Beliefs And Personal Attacks

A Candidate Comes To Town And Passes Muster

Lake, Finchem ask judge to stop use of electronic voting machines in Arizona

Arizona lawmakers eyeing budget surplus to pay pension debt

 

 

 

Arizona News – June 11, 2022

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The Prickly Pear will provide current, linked articles about Arizona consistent with our Mission Statement to ‘inform, educate and advocate’. We are an Arizona based website and believe this information should be available to all of our statewide readers.

 

Pope Francis Appoints New Bishop For Diocese Of Phoenix

Arizona Aggregate Gross Income, Population Grew From Those Fleeing High-Tax States

Inflation Crisis in Arizona at Historic Worst, Phoenix Most Impacted

New Election Integrity Laws Will Provide Cleaner Voter Rolls

Arizona enacts law citing late Justice Scalia’s advice on voter integrity

Arizona judge upholds mail-in voting

Another Guilty Plea in Yuma County Demonstrates How Voter Fraud Is a Real Problem

The Left’s New Ballot Measure Would Make It Easy to Cheat and Hard to Catch in Arizona Elections

Arizona Republican gubernatorial primary a dead heat, poll shows

Senate Passes Requirement to Teach High Schoolers About Evils of Communism

Red4ED Is One of the Most Expensive Failures in Arizona Political History

Scottsdale Unified Accused Of Using “Unitown Club” As Cover For Gender Identity Propaganda

Arizona Lawmakers Split As House Passes Gun Reform After Uvalde Shooting