Stand Arizona is committed to empowering parents to support their children’s education journey. While we support school choice options such as high-quality public charter schools, we oppose universal vouchers for private schools which undermine public education, lack accountability, and exacerbate already wide educational and social inequities.
We are particularly concerned about the void of academic and financial accountability created with the expansion of Education Savings Account vouchers in HB 2853. It sends millions of dollars to unaccountable individuals and corporations with no expectation or requirement to actually educate students or meet their needs under the law. It’s a meager and toothless oversight that will leave parents with little to no recourse.
Arizona has a proud history of school choice, but this bill goes far beyond the will of the voters. As constructed, it undermines equity and further exacerbates existing gaps in educational opportunity.
The financial, regulatory and marketplace advantages and privileges gifted to private schools through HB 2853 leap outside the bounds of education reform and fair play. This is nothing more than special interest legislation, written not to support schools and better educate students, but to line pockets and enrich investors. Arizona families deserve better.
This month, thousands of young people and their families had a victory in the Arizona legislature.
In a vote of 58 to 1, the Arizona House of Representatives passed HB 2033.
This bill would help young people avoid falling into a cycle of debt and poverty for mistakes they made during childhood. HB 2033 will end extraneous juvenile court administrative fees, allowing them to truly pay their debt to society and move on to a better life.
Over the last 2 years, Stand AZ has been working in partnership with the Berkley Law Center and a coalition of criminal justice advocacy organizations to raise awareness and pass legislation addressing this issue.
Thanks to the hundreds of parents, teachers, and advocates that have taken action with us, lawmakers have seen a big wave of support for young people leaving the juvenile court system.
With the help of partners and volunteers, we sent action alerts to constituents, promoted the effort on social media, sent over 2,500 messages to legislative leaders and had over 600 individuals sign in to support HB 2033 in committee hearings.
How does policy change happen? It’s not easy. It takes good people to take a stand and apply consistent pressure to fix a problem.
Making a difference is possible. We’ve seen it time and time again – a group of organized and dedicated advocates can make a lasting change for the better. Over the last 12 years, Stand Arizona has brought together parents, educators, and other organizations to drive improved education systems for children in Arizona.
With the 2022 legislative session in full swing, we wanted to bring you into the fold, show you what policy areas we are working on, and invite you to take action! There are several bills this session that will impact teachers, students, and families across our state.
Here are our top policy priorities this year:
Debt Free Justice
Young people deserve a fresh start in life.
For so many, getting their life back on track after leaving the juvenile court system is nearly impossible due to a current problem – juvenile court administrative fees.
Right now, Arizona families are using payday loans and high-interest credit cards to pay for these fees, which turns into crippling debt that stays with them for years. Some youth even decline representation by a public defender because they worry that the fees could cause financial strain on their families.
The pressure is too much. If the debt has not been paid before the youth turns 18, they can’t have their record cleared for a fresh start as an adult. Clearly, the system is not working for young people.
Over the last 2 years, Stand AZ has been working in partnership with the Berkley Law Center and a coalition of criminal justice advocacy organizations to raise awareness and pass legislation addressing this issue.
This year, Rep Walter Blackman introduced HB 2033, legislation that would help young people avoid falling into the cycle of debt and poverty for mistakes they made during childhood – by ending juvenile court administrative fees.
There has been a big wave of support for this effort from Arizona voters. With the help of partners and volunteers, we have sent action alerts to constituents, promoted the effort on social media, sent over 2,500 messages to legislative leaders, and had over 600 individuals sign in to support HB 2033 in committee hearings.
HB 2033 has passed the House Judiciary and House Appropriations Committees, and the bill will be heard on the House floor for a vote very soon!
If you would like to be involved in the effort or know someone that has been personally impacted by juvenile court administrative fees, we invite you to join the Debt Free Justice effort TODAY!
Restoring Arizona’s Commitment to funding education
Arizona has been facing an education crisis for some time now.
Right now, teacher pay is among the lowest in the nation, class size is the highest in the nation, and the student to counselor ratio is the worst in the nation, with an average of 900 students for every counselor.
Voters are fed up with legislators failing to address these issues.
In 2020, 1.7 million Arizona voters took matters into their own hands and passed Prop 208 – a historic initiative that would raise nearly a billion dollars annually in K-12 education funding.
However, over the last year and a half, legislative leaders and Governor Ducey were determined to kill Prop 208 and deny voters the revenue for schools that they passed at the ballot box.
Meanwhile, Arizona has an expected budget surplus of $1 billion ongoing and over $2 billion in one-time money that legislators will have to decide what to do with.
A legislative commitment to education means that this surplus money must go towards fully funding K-12 education, including teacher pay and other teacher recruitment and retention measures, more school counselors, classified staff pay (such as bus drivers, instructional aides, etc.), and strengthening Career and Technical Education.
There’s also been a lot of conversation about the Annual Expenditure Limit. This is a ceiling on school spending that is set in law which creates havoc with school budgets. We appreciate the commitment of the legislature to address it for this year, but we can’t ignore the long-term implications: Arizona will never get off the bottom of the school funding list if we permanently fix this cap.
A Word about Toxic Politics
During this session, we have seen several examples of how bad policy and blatant racism are leading to the most toxic atmosphere we have ever seen at the legislature. Here’s just one recent example:
Fearmongers and conspiracy theorists are being emboldened by legislation that sounds like it came straight out of an Orwell novel. From requiring teachers to post all plans and materials they intend to use for the year, to fining them for discussing certain topics, politicizing education is tearing us apart. One example of a problematic bill is HB 2112, recently passed by the House of Representatives. This bill would punish teachers for discussing the underlying issues of race and ethnicity in our society. Now, this bill is headed to the Senate.
Efforts to ban the teaching of honest history are pushing more teachers toward leaving the classroom.
A recent national survey showed how the public-school teacher crisis is getting worse – 3 in 10 public school teachers are considering leaving the profession at the end of this school year. This is happening as new censorship laws are being passed by legislatures across the country – and which bar teachers from discussing topics of race, gender, and sexuality.
These efforts to silence teachers are alarming to parents that would rather we be spending our time addressing their child’s ability to recover from the pandemic. They trust teachers to teach history in a fair and accurate manner, and to ensure that students learn from the mistakes of our past so we aren’t doomed to repeat them.
We have connected hundreds of voters to their legislators to demand that they oppose like this. So far, over 2,500 messages have been sent to legislators about HB 2112.
Yazmin Castro, an amazing 9th Grader in Phoenix, puts it best:
“Honest conversations about our country’s past and present are the best way to heal, foster understanding and create the future all students deserve. For the sake of students, teachers, and the future, we cannot remain silent.”
Read Yazmin’s full story on the Stand AZ blog. Also, you can learn more and join the effort to stop censorship in schools.
This is an important year for our policy priorities.
One thing we know for sure is that we can’t do this alone. Add your name here if you would like to join our efforts at the Arizona legislature!
Last month, Stand was honored to be featured on 12 News Arizona!
Across the state, more and more people are realizing the depth of Arizona’s education crisis, and the important role of reading in early childhood to address it.
Reading at an early age and on grade level are major factors in a child’s development. The literacy skills demanded by work and learning environments are increasingly more complex. And, at the moment, we are unsuccessfully preparing our children to meet that demand.
Arizona continues to rank below the national average when it comes to literacy rates. If you live in this state, you have probably seen firsthand the need for investment in education.
Today, Arizona has the worst teacher pay in the nation (ranked 50th), the most crowded class size in the nation (23.5, compared to the national average of 16), and a school counselor to student ratio of 848 to 1, compared to the national average of 424 to 1 (the recommended ratio is 250 to 1).
Low reading rates across Arizona present a major obstacle for the lives of young students and future economic success for our state. As legislative leaders drag their feet to implement lasting funding solutions, Stand for Children Arizona has jumped into action.
Meanwhile, our organization is going into our sixth year leading the Every Child Reads program.
Every Child Reads (ECR) is a research-based family engagement program that provides a crucial connection between parents and schools to support at-home literacy. The program provides:
- More than 6,400 books for families to keep
- Access to our digital library with multiple languages and an audio function.
- Ongoing support for 30 schools and over 2,600 parents.
- Long term mentorship for parents to grow teaching/learning skills at home and in the community.
Every Child Reads is proving to be a tool that is bringing people together at a time of immense need, and Stand is eager to continue to reach thousands of families and bring even more services to those who need it most.
Often, children with so much potential are overlooked and under-tapped because of their skin color, zip code, first language, or disability.
Our team is determined to change that. Projects like these provide young learners the opportunity to start their elementary school reading at an appropriate level, and w and we are grateful to all of our donors who make this program possible!
We invite you to make a difference with us! Please, make a donation today to our mission and the Every Child Reads program!
This piece was published on the Arizona Republic on January 22nd, 2022.
Note to Arizona lawmakers: Do an end-around on huge tax cuts at your own risk
Opinion: Voters don’t want tax cuts for the wealthy while schools remain woefully underfunded. It’s risky for lawmakers to do an end-around their wishes in an election year.
Arizona Republicans want to repeal and replace the huge tax cuts for the wealthy, which they forced through in the 11th hour last legislative session, to avoid a citizen’s referendum that has halted them.
This referendum should be on the November ballot as Proposition 307. Arizona voters demanded the opportunity to weigh in on the GOP maneuver.
Yet it’s clear that these politicians don’t want to hear what Arizonans have to say. They remain hellbent on favoring tax cuts that dramatically favor the wealthiest individuals, while our schools and public services remain woefully underfunded.
Voters are tired of improperly funded schools
Our volunteers – parents, teachers and everyday citizens – spent countless hours in the summer heat collecting hundreds of thousands of citizens’ signatures, and repeatedly heard from voters of all political stripes that enough was enough.
Voters are tired of the legislative majority ignoring Arizonans’ consistent and repeated demands for more state revenue to properly fund education.
They see firsthand in their schools the impact of having the worst teacher pay in the nation (50th), the most crowded class size in the nation (23.5, compared to the national average of 16), and a school counselor to student ratio of 848 to 1, compared to the national average of 424 to 1 (the recommended ratio is 250 to 1).
If any “repeal and replace” were to happen, it would be carried out by 47 Republican legislators and the governor turning their backs on the 1.7 million Arizonans who voted yes to fund education.
That makes no sense in a new election year.
Most don’t want a ‘repeal and replace’
Polling conducted on behalf of Stand for Children Arizona in December shows that these legislators are vulnerable despite redistricting. A full 55% of voters say that they would be less likely to vote for a candidate for state office who worked to “repeal and replace” Senate Bill 1828 and nullify Proposition 307.
More than 60% of voters are convinced that “repeal and replace” shouldn’t happen because the Legislature shouldn’t use dishonest gimmicks to push through their tax cut for the wealthy.
And they believe legislators must be held accountable in next November’s election for undermining the will of the voters.
Meanwhile, 71% of Arizona voters still insist on additional funds for public schools, with 48% saying that there is a “great need.”
The Proposition 208 – Invest in Education election victory in November 2020 shows that our coalition knows how to turn polling into reality.
How lawmakers can help schools
If legislators are smart, and if they truly believe the budget can be improved from last year, they should consider:
- Using the projected budget surplus to honor the will of the voters. That means fully funding K-12 education, including teacher pay and other teacher recruitment and retention measures, more school counselors, classified staff pay (bus drivers, instructional aides), and strengthening Career and Technical Education.
- Proposing permanent solutions to the outdated caps on education spending. The Legislature knows that Arizona’s schools need at least a short-term fix by March or else schools are going to have to slash their budgets, which will irreparably hurt Arizona’s children.
Word is that they plan to attach a one-time fix to the “repeal and replace” of the old budget bill, thus strong-arming the education community into going along with their tax break for the wealthy because we want to keep school budgets intact.
This cynical, short sighted approach adds insult to injury and does nothing to solve the real problem: Every time the Legislature slashes state revenue it shrinks the pie, so to speak, and further strains school funding under the current expenditure limit.
We don’t think that makes any sense, and voters agree with us. According to the December poll, two-thirds (67%) of voters believe the state spending cap for education needs to be addressed. This includes 76% of rural voters and 52% of Republican voters.
It’s a no brainer: Fix the cap. Fund education. Because Arizonans are extremely frustrated with politicians and are ready to take it to the ballot box – again.
Rebecca Gau is executive director of Stand for Children Arizona, a non-profit education advocacy organization. This opinion piece also reflects the views of the Invest in Arizona campaign, which includes the Arizona Education Association, Stand for Children Arizona, Children’s Action Alliance, Arizona Center for Economic Progress, Arizona Interfaith Network, and is now joined by Save Our Schools Arizona, and Friends of the Arizona School Boards Association. For more information visit www.investinaznow.com.
If 2020 was a year of unprecedented change, challenging us to adapt and overcome like we haven’t been challenged in generations, 2021 was all about finding our footing and achieving positive impact and growth. Stand empowered more parents to engage in their kids’ education and grow as community leaders. And more of Arizona’s most precious resource, our students, leaned in to help build a future they can carry.
As our team gears up for another big year ahead, we want to pause for a moment to say thank you to all who have supported us, and to share our gratitude for having you in our network.
We have so much to be grateful for!
From A Phoenix Mom
Carolina Hernandez and her family
“I am the mother of 3 children of 11, 7 and 4 years old. As a mother and wife, having children in middle school, elementary school, and preschool at the same time has been a real challenge for me. I have to balance my occupations with the time dedicated to each of my children at home, but thanks to the reading programs organized by Stand for Children I have been able to recognize that every moment of living together with the family can be moments of learning.”
We are thankful for our continuing donors
We are thankful for our new donors
We are thankful for you!
You help us connect with parents, send kids more books, and deepen home-school connections for those that need it most. We are so grateful to the many of you who have demonstrated your compassion for the future of our kids by investing in our work.Thank you!
Wishing you a joyous holiday season!
Rebecca, Liliana, Katherine, Georgina, Atenas, and Carlos
The Stand for Children Arizona Team
Students deserve to learn accurate U.S. history. Our country’s future depends on it.
As a student in high school, I am always reminded to think about my future. What would I like to do as a career? Will I have the skills I need? What does it take to be a good citizen? I’ve been lucky to have great teachers. They dedicate themselves to teaching valuable skills that will help in college, my future career, and the relationships I will make.
In History class I am learning some of the most valuable lessons – it’s where I’m taught about Civics and American History, including the challenges our country has faced and how we got through them. I am also learning how to take those lessons and apply them to issues that my generation faces now. I’m learning how to think critically about information and current events, and how to think about my role in the success of our nation.
This is why it is so important for me to learn a thorough, accurate, and fact-based account of American history. If we want to avoid making the mistakes of the past, we must be able to talk about it.
Failing to teach accurate history deprives young people like me the quality education we deserve.
Sadly, this is happening here in my home state. Recently, loud and powerful voices have organized to pass HB 2898 – an attack on local school districts attempting to teach important issues in schools.
Legislation like this encourages teachers to brush past difficult parts of our history or omit them entirely for fear of being sued. I’m very worried that if this continues, students like me will get half the story, and half-truths.
Censoring teachers only disadvantages students and our whole nation in the long run. That is why I am speaking up, and I hope you will join me!
Misinformation and inflammatory and inaccurate labels are being spread online about what is being taught in schools, which in almost every case bears no relationship to what is actually being taught, how teachers are teaching, and what students themselves want to learn.
This divisive political climate is leading to censorship of my classes. For example, the misinformation that some are promoting is creating fear and division to the point where students like me cannot learn about the role that racism has played in our nation’s past and present. This is wrong.
How can we move forward to a better future without learning from the mistakes of the past? Mistakes that are still being repeated today. Why can teachers not teach that racism played a significant role in our past and, sadly, it continues to be widespread and harmful to us all?
We cannot allow a small group of loud and powerful people to censor teachers and control what we learn about our country.
A broad majority of Americans want schools to teach an accurate and truthful presentation of our history. They also believe that racism is a widespread problem and not something that can be dismissed. This means students like me need to learn about racism as part of American history lessons.
Which means we need you to stand up against legislation that seeks to censor teachers doing just that.
A high-quality public education includes learning an accurate, fact-based account of U.S. history. Contact your legislator today if you believe students deserve to hear the truth about our nation’s past.
Honest conversations about our country’s past and present are the best way to heal, foster understanding and create the future all students deserve. For the sake of students, teachers, and the future, we cannot remain silent.
How do we help those in our community that are furthest away from justice and opportunity?
We speak up, and we drive change.
Many young people in Arizona get trapped in the juvenile court system. Despite their efforts to make amends, fulfill their punishment and move on, getting their life back on track can become nearly impossible due to unnecessary barriers. This crucial point in a teenager’s life can make all the difference.
The impact of one current court practice is a particular problem: juvenile court administrative fees.
These fees are separate from punitive fines and victim restitution, and can include things that we expect to be free, such as being provided a public defender. That’s right – kids are being charged an attorney fee by the courts when they can’t afford an attorney on their own. Isn’t that the point of having a public defender system?
There are other fees, such as late fees or diversion fees (paying for an educational program to avoid jail time) which have little impact on the court’s functions, but can cause a major financial impact to low-income families.
You see, many families simply do not have the financial means to pay these fees, so they are forced into debt, which then goes to a debt collector. For the Courts research shows that they pay as much or more to the debt collection company than they ever receive in payments. And for the families, having this dept impacts their ability to do things like buy a car or rent an apartment. And if the debt has not been paid before the youth turns 18, they can’t have their record cleared for a fresh start as an adult.
Further, some youth decline representation by a public defender because they worry that the fees could cause financial strain on their families.
Clearly, the system is failing these young people.
Parents, siblings, and teachers have reached out to Stand with examples of how Juvenile Court fees can have deep negative impacts on youth and families.
Here are just a few. Note: The names in these stories appear as people requested.
Edith Fabian, a young woman from Phoenix, AZ went through this experience first-hand when her brother found himself unable to pay, leaving her and her family in financial trouble.
“Our family scrambled to get the money. We didn’t have the money immediately, but we used credit cards and borrowed money from friends.”
For Martha Laguna, mother and caretaker for her grandson talks about how the burden of fees was something she had to deal with for years.
“There were many court fees and things that needed to be paid that really left me struggling financially on top of the emotional experience we were all going through. For years, we kept getting the bills.”
Cheryl is a high School teacher in Arizona. She experienced the impact of administrative fees when she saw one of her students visibly scared at school.
“We need to help these kids turn their lives around not keep them in the darkness they were brought up in.”
Although the original intent of juvenile fees may not have been to punish, we can see the damage that they create. Research shows that these fees are harmful, racially discriminatory, undermine youth success, and impose high costs on families with little benefit to communities.
Meanwhile, significant resources are spent trying to collect debt from families, resulting in any anticipated revenue going to debt collectors.
This is a lose-lose situation. It doesn’t provide revenue for the community, and it does nothing to help the child get back on track.
Stand AZ is working to fix this. In partnership with the Berkley Law Center and allies from across the state, we are proposing to end the imposition of these fees on families and ensure that all youth regardless of their zip code, race, and families’ economic position have the same access to rehabilitation options.
During the 2021 legislative session we made exceptional headway in expanding awareness of the issue and getting closer to policy change. Stand introduced HB 2385 – a bill that would help youth and their families by ending these administrative fees.
Arizonans responded in a wave of support. They sent thousands of messages to legislators, participated in days of action, and made their voices heard in stakeholder meetings and committee hearings. Here is one of our annual “Stand Day at the Capitol” events where parents met and spoke directly with state legislators on the issue of juvenile court administrative fees.
We want to thank Representatives Ben Toma, Walter Blackman, and Diego Rodriguez for working with us! We also want to take a moment to thank all of the advocates that shared their stories, sent messages to legislators, and spoke at committee hearings.
This year, we reached our goal of raising awareness, building support, and getting this bill heard in the House Criminal Justice committee. Now, Stand and our partners are committed to getting this bill passed in the 2022 legislative session.
Are you ready to join us? Sign up here to share your support and get all the updates and action alerts on this issue!
Once again, we must save over $1 billion in funding for education and crucial services.
This week, the Invest in Arizona Coalition submitted hundreds of thousands of signatures to the Secretary of State to halt Governor Ducey and the legislative majority’s efforts to create a large tax break for the wealthy at the expense of schools and crucial services.
Yasmin Castro – 9th grade student Apollo High School speaking at the press conference at the Arizona capitol.
After 1.7 million voters passed Prop 208 – Invest in Ed, powerful interests have been working to undermine the new law. Their efforts are threatening the economic future of our state and the fight is not over.
That is why, in addition to defending Proposition 208 in trial court, the Invest in Arizona coalition filed ballot referenda to reject fiscally irresponsible giveaways that personally benefit Ducey and his wealthy political donors, while harming Arizona’s children and economy.
The next step? More legal battles. Opponents who want to protect the wealthy at the expense of students have already filed legal challenges to the signatures we filed. They don’t want you to be able to vote on this issue – they think it belongs in the hands of 48 people at the capitol – and the legal fees continue to add up.
Should we win the legal battles and the become official, these bad bills will show up on the November 2022 ballot for US to decide – not 48 people at the capitol.
You can join us in this fight – it is far from over.
Learn about the Invest in Arizona campaign!
This piece was published on the Arizona Republic on August 30th, 2021.
Opinion: The cards are stacked against Invest in Ed, but we haven’t stopped fighting. We’ll do it in the trial court and we’ll do it with 3 referenda in 2022.
Last week, in a flawed decision that has dangerous implications for the future of our state, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the entirety of Proposition 208, the Invest in Education Act, should be found unconstitutional if revenues from the new fund, created by voters in November 2020, exceed an education expenditure limit established in 1980.
The Supreme Court, filled with Gov. Doug Ducey appointees, sent Proposition 208 back to the lower court, but with a ruling that was clearly intended to seal its fate.
Meanwhile, each time the Legislature has known the expenditure limit would be reached, it voted to authorize expenditures that exceed the limit. Lawmakers will have to do so again by March 2022 to accommodate revenue from the Proposition 301 education sales tax.
In fact, Proposition 208 had the same language used by the Legislature and passed by voters in Proposition 301 that excluded its revenues from the expenditure limit. Make no mistake. There was no “drafting error” in Proposition 208.
School are ‘awash with cash’? Voters disagree
When asked about convening a special session for the Legislature to address this conflict and allow Proposition 208 to move forward, Gov. Ducey said the state is currently “awash with cash” for education and “brushed aside the suggestion.”
Arizona ranks 49th for school funding and has the highest average class size in the nation. Our persistent teacher shortage crisis is getting even worse.
Arizona voters understood this crisis when they passed Proposition 208, expecting to increase school funding to address these dire issues. Polls continue to show that voters want to see significant investment in Arizona’s schools. They do not see an education system “awash with cash.”
What voters do see, however, is 47 Republican legislators and a governor who care more about their wealthy political donors – who are truly “awash with cash” – than Arizona’s students.
The disconnect with voters is clear in the direct attacks on Proposition 208, as well as the massive tax cuts for the wealthy enacted this past legislative session and signed by Gov. Ducey.
That’s why we’re asking voters for help again
That is why, in addition to defending Proposition 208 in the trial court, the Invest in Arizona coalition is moving forward with three referenda to reject these fiscally irresponsible giveaways that personally benefit Ducey and his wealthy political donors, while harming Arizona’s children and economy.
Even former Republican Gov. Jan Brewer warned of the dangers of this tax cut and called on him to put the future of Arizona before his personal interests and political ambitions.
The public shares Gov. Brewer’s concern.
A strong majority of Arizona voters say they would reject all three bills on the November 2022 ballot. Our polling shows:
- 62% of voters, including 51% strongly, say they would vote to reject a maximum personal income tax of 4.5%.
- 60% of voters, including 45% strongly, say they would vote to reject a new category for certain wealthy taxpayers to avoid the Proposition 208 surcharge.
- 53% of voters, including 46% strongly, say they would vote to reject a reduction of the highest income tax bracket to 2.5%.
Voters reject these bills with impressive numbers that extend across the partisan spectrum.
Arizona voters are fed up with Doug Ducey and the Legislature’s failed leadership. Voters want stronger schools and a stronger economy, not self-serving leaders whose priority is welfare for the wealthy.
Arizonans are, once again, collecting signatures to do what the Legislature and governor won’t: Do the right thing for Arizona’s students.
Rebecca Gau is executive director of Stand for Children Arizona and writes on behalf of the Invest in Arizona coalition: Arizona Center for Economic Progress, Arizona Education Association, Arizona Interfaith Network, Children’s Action Alliance, Friends of the Arizona School Boards Association, Save our Schools Arizona, Stand for Children Arizona. Share your thoughts at [email protected].
The COVID-19 pandemic was devastating for families across this country, including mine. My husband lost his job, and as a result, we lost something very important in our lives: our home.
As the mother of five, I was terrified. It was a very difficult situation as I did not have a stable place to provide for my children. Now, my husband is living in a different place with more job opportunities while my children and I are living with my parents.
The increased child tax credit is going to be a godsend for my family. When the payments start arriving in July, I will be able to provide food, clothing and — in a not too distant time — a roof for my children. But this tax credit is supposed to end in 2022, so we need lawmakers to vote to make it permanent.
Knowing that month after month we can count on financial support would give us hope to be able to move forward faster from the financial harm that the pandemic caused my family.
You can learn more about the child tax credit at childtaxcredit.gov. Even if you didn’t earn enough money last year to need to file taxes, you can still sign up to get the payments if your family qualifies.
I know that nothing is worse than not being able to give your kids what they need. This tax credit will be a lifeline for my family and so many others working hard to care for their kids.
In a year of tension and tragedy, we pause to consider our role in the community.
We know that Stand for Children Arizona is not alone in the challenges we’ve overcome and the changes we’ve faced in a record-breaking year. As we start to see a light at the end of the tunnel, we want to acknowledge everyone in our network of community partners, donors, and friends who have leaned in and stepped up to support the needs of families hit hardest by the pandemic, itself, and its economic impact.
We all didn’t just keep pace, we stayed ahead of the challenges. For each of us that meant different things – adapting to technology and providing support, giving a little more time or a little more treasure for those in need. Whatever your focus, from our team to yours: Thank You!
For our part, we’ve learned a lot that will transform how we do our work moving forward. We plan to continue our more regular direct communication with parents to determine their needs and provide direct support. We will also continue to offer an online option to our workshops and events.
We wanted to share some examples of how we adjusted and grew from our experiences. And, most importantly, we made a difference for kids and families. We know a lot of you did, too. Again, thank you for work!
PANDEMIC DIRECT SUPPORT FOR BASIC NEEDS
During the pandemic we worked closely with our partners at Valley of the Sun United Way, SUNDT Foundation, and Give Directly to provide information, educational supplies like laptops and books, basic items like diapers, baby items, clothing, and direct financial support, to families that were in desperate situations due to the pandemic.
Pandemic Response Workshops
Together with volunteers, we contacted over 400 families and leveraged our extensive network to design and deliver workshops to address urgent issues families identified, like keeping kids engaged with school at home, the census, and Financial Literacy.
Every Child Reads Grows!
With kids learning at home or hybrid this past year, the Every Child Reads program has grown. We launched the program in several new school districts, benefiting hundreds of families. There is a lot of reading going on!
As we enter summer, we are hopeful for a more “normal” year starting in August, and to help even more parents, teachers, school officials, and students than ever before. Thank you for standing with us.
Please consider donating to our work! You can join us here.
We have great news to share! Our legislative effort to help the youngest students in Arizona was successful! HB 2123 has officially been signed into law, which will reform outdated zero-tolerance discipline practices and benefit future generations of young students in our state.
The new law limits expulsions and suspensions for students in grades K-4 and prohibits them for students aged 6 and younger. It also establishes policy for schools to explore alternate behavioral and disciplinary interventions and to create a pathway for potential readmission of suspended or expelled students.
As part of the effort to get it passed, the Arizona Department of Education committed to provide funding for early grade teachers to get resources and training to handle mental health issues with young kids as an alternative to suspensions and expulsions. It’s a win-win for students, families and teachers!
We could not have done this without the hard work of our team, advocacy partners, policy leaders, and supporters like YOU! Together, we had a record-breaking year, connecting parents, their students, and lawmakers to create meaningful change. Thank you for making a difference with us in making our schools more safe and just.
Why Focus on School “Push Out” and Education Equity?
We believe that every student deserves a fair and inclusive system that gives them every opportunity to succeed in life, especially in those early years where so much is at stake in their development. We are energized to work toward justice and opportunity for children who are the furthest from it. Over the last 12 years we have found that one of the most important factors in this effort is education equity. Sadly, one of the clearest examples of the equity gap is the outdated discipline practices that push students out of the classroom and prevent them from returning to school.
Students cannot learn when they aren’t in the classroom. Young kids in particular don’t actually learn to behave better if they are suspended or expelled and barred from coming to school. It makes no sense, and yet students in Arizona were still being pushed out of the classroom.
Many students that are being suspended are children with learning or behavioral disabilities that are already behind, so resorting to suspension and expulsion puts them further behind, and sometimes they can’t ever catch up.
On top of this, evidence points out that these harsh punishments are primarily impacting students of color. Black, Native American, and Hispanic students miss disproportionately more days of school than their white counterparts due to suspensions and expulsions.
The Road to Change
We know that addressing equity is not easy. That’s why we worked alongside parents and community leaders to raise awareness, make meaningful connections, and work within the political process to implement policy change.
State lawmakers got to hear from Stand AZ parents like Erika Rocha. She had to fight to keep her young kids in school. Unfortunately, her experience was far too familiar for many in Arizona.
Both of her kids have been diagnosed with learning disabilities and need a bit of extra attention in the classroom. They both receive speech therapy in addition to other resource services. One day with little explanation, their school called to inform Erika that her two young kids were going to be expelled. The school cited issues like talking too much and not listening, but these seemed like such small infractions for that punishment.
Sadly, the lack of school counselors and resources has made school districts too reliant on zero-tolerance policies like suspensions and expulsions. After a lot of convincing and meeting with school officials, Erika was able to keep her kids in school. She was more fortunate than many others.
Thanks to her story, lawmakers saw the importance of this new law.
You can read the whole story in The Arizona Republic article here.
Erika and her family were also featured on the Telemundo Arizona! You can watch the Telemundo Video here!
Victory for Young Students
This victory for kids was made possible by the partnership and dedication of policy leaders, community and government organizations, and parents. We particularly want to thank Representatives Michelle Udall and Jennifer Pawlik, and Senator Paul Boyer, for their leadership in bringing school discipline issues to the forefront at the state capitol and succeeding in passing good policy for students!
Thank you to the ACLU of Arizona for partnering with us on this project, advocating at the legislature with us and adding to our personal stories that showed lawmakers the impact of this new law. And Thank You to the Arizona Department of Education for designating funding for early grade teachers to get resources and training to handle mental health issues with young kids as an alternative to suspensions and expulsions.
We could not have done this without working together! But we aren’t done yet! We are ramping up our efforts to do even more to address education equity in Arizona. Will you join us? Sign up to receive news and updates on Safe and Just Schools.
Last week, students and parents stood in front of legislators to demand a stop to proposed education cuts to their schools. After school, students and their parents drove to the capitol to carry a message that politicians need to hear:
“Don’t cut education funding!”
Right now, proposed legislation and budget negotiations are making their way through the Arizona legislature that will lead to hundreds of millions in cuts to funding created by the voter-approved Prop 208 – Invest in Ed. Even though this is illegal according to the Voter Protection Act, they are trying anyway, and we are working to stop them.
Families in Arizona — including schoolchildren — aren’t having it. That’s why Stand Arizona parents, students, and volunteers joined together at last week’s Hands Across the Capitol rally to protest this deliberate attempt to effectively reverse the election result.
Students, parents, educators, and education advocates are telling their state legislators that they are watching and will remember this next election! Stopping these dangerous, illegal budget proposals will save education funding that was approved by the voters through Prop 208 – Invest in Ed.
We’re so close to adding a much-needed $1 billion annual investment into Arizona schools, strengthening Arizona’s economy, and doing it all with strict accountability.
Lawmakers must prioritize the needs of students and schools instead of lining the pockets of wealthy constituents and business interests.
Is that too much to ask?
If you want to support the fight to protect this critical education funding, please consider donating today.
Watch AZ Family’s coverage of the event:
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.
PROP 208 LAUNCHES TV AD CALLING POLITICIANS’ DECEPTION AS LEGISLATURE AIMS TO CUT SCHOOL FUNDS APPROVED BY VOTERS
Arizona politicians attempt to silence the public and undermine the will of the voters with bill SB 1783. A proposed tax loophole for the ultra-wealthy at the expense of funding created by Prop 208 – Invest in Ed.
(PHOENIX)– This week, Prop 208 – Invest in Ed began airing a new TV ad exposing the effort by Arizona legislators to cut hundreds of millions in revenue for schools created by Prop 208 – Invest in Ed, which was passed by voters in November. The TV ad also urges voters to stand with teachers, parents and urge their legislators to vote “NO” on SB 1783.
After a very emotional and partisan committee hearing, SB 1783 advanced and could head to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote.
“If SB 1783 passes, Arizona teachers, students, and schools will lose over $377 million in funding. Meanwhile, 6,000 millionaires get a $35,000 per year tax break. That’s more than Arizona’s average starting teacher salary”
said Rebecca Gau, Executive Director of Stand for Children Arizona.
“Make no mistake. Despite the lies told by legislators who want to stop us, even the Joint Legislative Budget Committee analysis shows that this is a specific attack on Prop 208 – Invest in Ed, passed by 1.7 million voters in November. SB 1783 violates the Voter Protection Act and could lead to yet another expensive lawsuit for the state.”
According to a Joint Legislative Budget Committee report, the revenue cuts will only affect revenue created by Prop 208 – Invest in Ed, thus violating the Voter Protection Act.
“The Prop 208 – Invest in Ed ad alerts voters to the cynical, underhanded actions at the legislature and asks them to take action,” Gau continued. “Over the last few years, public opinion polls have shown that education is THE most important issue for voters. The legislature has clearly forgotten that. We want to make sure they remember.”
A new public opinion poll released this month by Stand for Children Arizona confirms that a majority of Arizonans want Prop 208 – Invest in Ed to be fully implemented and oppose SB 1783. The survey was conducted in March 2021 by Moore Information Group. Key findings from this poll include:
A majority of voters disapprove of Senate Bill 1783 – which would create an entirely new tax category allowing some wealthy individuals to avoid the voter-approved Prop 208 surcharge for education.
- Majorities of voters who are somewhat Conservative (52%) or Moderate (56%) are less likely to support Republican legislators who vote in favor of SB 1783.
- 59% oppose SB 1783 after hearing arguments both for and against the bill.
- 49% of voters surveyed answered that they would be less likely to vote for a State Representative who attempts to overturn Proposition 208
“The legislature is attempting to illegally undermine the 1.7 million Arizona voters who passed Prop 208 – Invest In Ed. The public voted for more education funding and expected the legislature to respect their constitutionally protected wishes,” said Rebecca Gau, Executive Director of Stand for Children Arizona.
A Joint Legislative Budget Committee analysis on SB 1783 shows that:
- 86% of the funds removed from Prop 208 – Invest in Ed will come from 6,192 tax-filers with net taxable income of over $1 million per year.
- These 6,192 Arizonans would receive an annual $34,600 tax break, which is higher than Arizona’s median income, and higher than many starting teachers’ salaries.
Even after the passage of Prop 208 – Invest in Ed voters want even more funding to go to the classroom. December’s Annual Survey Results from Stand for Children found that more than seven in ten Arizonans still believe there is a need for additional funding for public schools.
- Efforts to cut taxes in other areas to offset the income tax surcharges imposed by Prop 208 find little support – 40% support, 39% oppose; Opposition increases significantly when voters are informed that funding for education could also be reduced (58% opposed).
- A possible effort to repeal Prop 208 – Invest in Ed meets with plurality opposition today, whether through the courts or legislative action.