Katie Hobbs, the Democratic nominee for Arizona governor, released her education plan on Sunday, which doubles down on her opposition to school choice.
Hobbs, who is currently Arizona’s secretary of state and herself a private school graduate, said her education plan for Arizona includes cracking down on the state’s school voucher program.
“Too often, Republicans have completely disregarded public opinion in an effort to defund our public schools. At every turn, they have moved to expand school vouchers without common-sense measures of accountability, with the clear intent to eventually do away with our local public schools,” Hobbs said in her plan.
Arizona expanded its school voucher program over the summer. Governor Doug Ducey (R-AZ) signed a bill in July allowing every Arizona student to get a taxpayer-funded Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) to pay for their education at a private school, about $6,500 per child for grades 1-12.
In the first two weeks after the online portal for new ESA applications opened, the state received around 6,800 new applications for school vouchers.
Hobbs said that as governor, she would roll back the expansion.
“Vouchers should not have been expanded to provide an unaccountable means of enriching private schools and defunding our local public schools,” she said in her plan.
Hobbs also attacked Arizona Republicans, who she said “pressed forward with their latest attack on our schools” by passing the universal expansion of school vouchers.
“The unaccountable spending of taxpayer dollars needs to change,” she said.
Meanwhile though, Hobbs also wants Arizona public schools to be able to spend more money.
Her plan supports eliminating Arizona’s spending limit on public schools, known as the aggregate expenditure limit (AEL), which caps the amount of money public schools can spend out of their budget. Arizona’s public schools are estimated to spend $1.3 billion less this fiscal year with the spending cap.
Hobbs herself is a beneficiary of a private school education.
Hobbs graduated from Seton Catholic Preparatory, a private Catholic high school in Chandler, Arizona in 1988. Seton has proudly highlighted Hobbs’ attendance in the past.
Hobbs herself has said she had a positive experience at the school. She noted in 2019 that Seton teachers encouraged her to look at things from different perspectives, like how to see the relevance in older classic literature.
“It really felt like a family,” Hobbs said. “You really had a chance to get to know the people that you went to school with.”
Support for school choice has increased since before the pandemic as frustrated parents confronted school boards over a litany of issues including COVID restrictions and curriculum materials they deemed inappropriate.
Other states are also working to expand school choice. Last month, a school choice group in Michigan cleared one of two major hurdles it needs to circumvent Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s (D-MI) veto of a school choice measure.
Also on Sunday, Hobbs’ campaign announced that she will not debate her opponent, Republican Kari Lake after over a week of negotiations. Hobbs had attempted to replace the debate with having the candidates do separate half-hour interviews with the moderator instead.