This past week was National School Choice Week, a time when supporters of School Choice all over America celebrate the idea of all parents having the resources to send their children to the school of their choice- be it public school, charter school, private school, or homeschool.
In timing that was perhaps unintentionally ironic, the Governor announced only a few days before National School Choice Week kicked off that she would like to eliminate some of the most popular school choice programs in Arizona.
In her proposed budget, Governor Katie Hobbs suggested repealing School Tuition Organization (STO) tax credits and limiting Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) by requiring students to spend 100 days in a district school before getting one.
These programs have enabled Arizona to be ranked number 1 in the country for Educational Freedom (by the Heritage Foundation) and have been a huge engine for growth for Arizona and the Jewish community here in particular, as families moved here from other states to get relief from prohibitive day school tuition.
This proposed repeal would have a devastating effect on our families, our schools, and our community at large, as so many families at all our schools rely on these programs to pay tuition.
It was clear that we needed to do whatever we could to stop this from happening.
After the announcement, the leaders of all the Jewish schools in Phoenix got together on a Zoom call with Mr. Ari Weisenfeld, Agudath Israel’s Associate Director of the Office of State Relations. Mr. Weisenfeld helps communities in different states advocate for government programs that will help the Jewish community.
Mr. Weisenfeld suggested we and our families contact our legislators, attend the School- Choice rally at the State Capitol, and sign a petition that is circulating from Love Your School, an organization that helps families find schools they love and connects them with the resources to pay (such as ESAs and STOs). He also suggested that we invite legislators to see our schools, and try to develop personal relationships with lawmakers.
As part of this last suggestion, Torah Day School will hold a legislative town hall towards the end of February, where we will invite legislators and candidates to meet our families, talk about their support of school choice, and hear from us about the importance of school choice to our community. Please stay tuned for more details.
On Tuesday, even though it was raining and muddy, many TDSP families went downtown to attend the rally at the State Capitol. There was a sizable presence of Jewish people at the rally, as our families were joined by families from Phoenix Hebrew Academy, Tamim Academy, Cheder Lubavitch of Arizona, Yeshiva High School of Arizona, and Shearim Torah High School, as well as other concerned community members.
At the rally we held signs, met legislators, and cheered in support of School Choice. The crowd at the rally was ethnically diverse, which brings home the point that families from all backgrounds want the freedom to educate their children in the way they see fit.
Currently, the pro-school choice faction has a one-seat majority in the Arizona House and Senate. They will, G-d willing, stop this repeal from happening. But this majority is slim, and in the next election cycle things could change, Chas Vesholom, and the pro-school choice faction could lose those seats. It is up to us to make sure that this does not happen, and that lawmakers from all political parties understand how much these programs mean to us and our community.
TDSP thanks the many parents who took time out of their days to attend the rally downtown. Thank you to all the parents who signed the petition and contacted their legislators. We really appreciate your support, and we hope that all parents will support this effort.