The Arizona Supreme Court has repeatedly throughout history recognized and protected the citizen’s initiative process. Under the Arizona Constitution, the power of the people to create their own laws is equal to that of elected legislators. On April 20, the Arizona Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that seeks to invalidate Prop 208 – Invest in Ed, which was passed by Arizona voters in the last election and upheld by a lower court judge earlier this year. Voters will be watching closely to see if the Supreme Court will respect the people’s constitutional rights.
(Photo by AZ Capitol Times)
This case is important for several reasons. For one, it represents the third time opposition groups have asked the Arizona Supreme Court to end Invest in Ed. The first, in 2018, led to the initiative being removed from the 2018 ballot after hundreds of thousands of signatures had been collected and submitted. The Supreme Court decided the case on a technicality that left many supporters shell shocked and confused. The second, in the summer of 2020, also tried to remove Invest in Ed after hundreds of thousands of signatures were collected and submitted. This time, Invest in Ed was successful and remained on the November 2020 ballot as Prop 208. It won with 1.7 million Arizonan's voting in favor, and by a larger margin than either President Biden or Senator Kelly.
The second reason this case is important is that it represents another attempt by Governor Ducey to strong arm his allies to undermine the voters. In this case, Governor Ducey filed a brief with the high court urging it to sidestep the normal procedure and immediately take the case. Combine this with the atrocious behavior of the House Ways and Means Committee Chair, Shawna Bolick (who is married to Ducey Supreme Court appointee Clint Bolick) when discussing Prop 208 during a committee hearing and other past reports of inappropriate communication between the Governor and the Court, it is critical that this Court act impartially and remain independent, rather than surrender to political pressure from the Executive and Legislative branches.
The third reason this case is important is that the Arizona Supreme Court has the responsibility to protect the will of the voters against efforts by some legislators and special interest groups to undermine the people’s law. This effort is not new, but is coming to a head with Prop 208. The law that the people passed is clear and constitutional. Yet a small group of political opponents are asking the Court to declare the law unconstitutional as an end-run around the citizen initiative process simply because they didn’t like the outcome of an election. Arizonans value their constitutional right to the ballot measure process, and they will be watching closely to see if the Court will respect that right.
(Photo by AZ Capitol Times)
The fourth reason this case is important is why we supported Prop 208 to begin with – its impact on the future of our students and our education system. Prop 208 - Invest in Ed restores nearly a billion dollars annually in K-12 education funding to solve the teacher shortage crisis, lower class sizes, hire aides and counselors, and expand career and technical education. Even since its passage, voters still believe that additional funding for public education is needed. 72% of Arizona voters believe there is a need for additional funds for Arizona public schools above and beyond what Prop 208 - Invest in Ed will ultimately provide. The Arizona Supreme Court Justices have a chance to leave a legacy of improving the lives of Arizona’s children.
If the opponents of Invest in Ed get their way in court, it will undermine Prop 208 – Invest in Ed, and the will of Arizonans who voted for it. We have seen this before – politicians and special interests helping a handful of the wealthiest in Arizona at the expense of teachers, students, and small businesses.
We’re so close to adding a much-needed $1 billion annual investment into Arizona schools, and our opponents are getting desperate. We hope that the Supreme Court Justices remember who they serve.