GOP lawmakers skewer Hobbs’ budget at Capitol as school voucher advocates protest rollback plan

By Mary Jo Pitzl ||  The Arizona Republic

Gov. Katie Hobbs’ first budget proposal got off to a rocky start Monday.

While Republican lawmakers inside the Capitol questioned almost every aspect of the Democratic governor’s $17.1 billion plan, school choice supporters outside staged a noisy rally to oppose Hobbs’ proposal to repeal the universal voucher program.

To chants of “ESA is here to stay”, supporters of the Empowerment Scholarship Account program vowed to fight to keep the program that lawmakers expanded just seven months ago. The ESA scholarships can pay for a range of educational purposes, from private school tuition to tutors to micro schools and home schooling. The average voucher is worth about $7,000.

Nearly 46,000 children now get their schooling through the ESA program, said Stacey Brown, herself the parent of ESA students. Hobbs’ proposal would harm children, she said at the Capitol rally.

Children hold signs at a protest at the Rose Garden outside the Arizona state Capitol in Phoenix on Jan. 17, 2023.

“This is our right,” Brown said, as the crowd cheered and children waved handmade signs.

Shannon Hayes, lead advocate of the Black Mothers Forums, said the ESA scholarships are a lifesaver for children of color, who are “criminalized” by the public schools.


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January 2023