Arizona families will now be able to freely choose any school of their choice and have state tax dollars follow their child to that school. Our new universal Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) law is in effect for all Arizona students after radical opponents of school choice failed to submit the minimum required signatures to put the law on hold and refer it to the 2024 ballot. This is the first legislation of its kind and is now the gold standard in the United States. Every state in the nation should also follow our lead in freeing students from undesirable educational settings.
After the Arizona legislature passed this legislation and when Governor Doug Ducey signed it into law on July 7, a union-backed organization (Save our Schools – SOS) immediately started organizing a campaign to gain enough signatures to refer it to the ballot. That would have temporarily denied school choice to thousands of Arizona students. Arizona provides for laws to be referred to the ballot before going into effect if enough valid signatures are gathered on legal petitions by opponents of those future statutes.
This group began their efforts by setting up tables around the state to attract individuals to sign their petitions. On Saturday, July 9, I first encountered a couple working for SOS. They misrepresented the petition by saying untrue things about ESAs, upsetting me. I would have been fine if they were gaining signatures from Arizona voters on the proper merits of the policies, but I was not going to stand for lies — especially since my family greatly benefited from this program over the past decade. In a respectful way, I verbally countered two of their volunteers for over an hour on their misrepresentation, and that is when I decided I wasn’t going to stand by and watch this happen to our state and to our families.
EXPERTS REACT TO ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE HOBBS CONCEDING DEFEAT ON PETITION TO REPEAL SCHOOL CHOICE PROGRAM
I went on the group’s social media accounts to find out where they were collecting signatures in my community and began countering them one after another. I would position myself nearby on public sidewalks in 110-degree heat, waiting for unsuspecting Arizonans to approach the SOS signature gatherers so that I could give them the truth before they signed. I quickly found that voters would look through the legislation, which was attached to the petitions, after hearing my arguments to find out for themselves what was inside this legislation.
Teachers unions have strongly opposed school choice. File: Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, supports Build Back Better in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on October 21, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for MomsRising Together)
(Paul Morigi/Getty Images for MomsRising Together)
SOS repeatedly lost support because they could not persuade reasonable people once the truth was exposed. After doing this for two weekends in a row, I realized I couldn’t do this by myself and started to call people to help me. Four friends came out to help me the third weekend, which grew the following weekend to 61 friends, and then to 107, and more each week. We ended this little campaign with over 1,000 families helping statewide — a huge achievement and commitment for everyone involved.
Our children were flipped off, cursed at, and assaulted while we peacefully protested. The union-backed group tried to bully and intimidate our families in the hope that we would just go home. Instead, our peaceful band of parents prayed for them, ignored them, and pushed on with our mission. All of us were united to ensure every voter in Arizona fully understood the ramifications of what they were signing.
Thanks to our tireless efforts to educate voters and counter the lies of the anti-school choice movement this summer, SOS fell well short of the minimum requirement for petition signatures, which was around 120,000.
This organic movement started with a mom, a private citizen, and remained a grassroots, collective effort from start to finish. The union-backed group tried their best to paint a bad picture of us to the public, but these attempts flopped.
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When you have hundreds of individual citizens standing up for their freedoms, it is impossible to blame one person. SOS should look in the mirror if they want someone to blame for the huge pushback they experienced. If they didn’t lie to voters to gain their signatures, we might have never been motivated to counter them.
Parents want options for their children’s education, and that is why ESAs have been popular among a lot of Arizona families for years. However, since the universal ESA application went online mid-August, more than 23,000 new students have applied for this new-and-improved scholarship, surpassing a lot of expectations – and it’s still early on in the process. The unions behind SOS know that they are immediately losing control of thousands of Arizona families, and that is why they worked so hard to stop this legislation. Thankfully, they came up short with their referendum attempt.
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Parents are the first and primary educators of their children, and they want to be able to have their children attend a school that allows them to thrive and become the people they were created to be. The world will be a better place when parents are freely directing their child’s education with no obstacles in their way. And now, in Arizona, that educational freedom is our way of life.