Good Luck, Gov. Katie Hobbs. Universal School Choice Isn't Going Anywhere (For Now)

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Arizona Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs just released her proposed budget, and her vision may be a difficult place to start with a Republican majority state legislature.


A key point in the budget is the repeal of the universal empowerment scholarship account program, which allows parents to use the money that would have originally gone to their child’s public education to fund different education expenses, such as for tuition at a non-public institution.

While the program, which has proven to be popular among Arizona parents, was under scrutiny from groups such as Save Our Schools, their petition ultimately failed, and the program has remained intact in recent months. It’s considered a major victory for state Republicans and the legacy of the Ducey administration–so much so that other states like Iowa are working to incorporate similar policies. Democrats and the teachers unions that back them are strongly opposed to the push for programs like these because they give parents of all socioeconomic backgrounds buying power in their child’s education, and it could lead to less attention and money toward public schools.

Hobbs’s budget includes an increase of K-12 education funding by $274 million, and partially attributes that increase to “ESA repeal,” ABC15 political analyst Garrett Archer tweeted Friday.


The governor’s ideal budget will have to budge in order to move forward, thanks to Republican state legislators balking at its many progressive facets.

“House Republicans are reviewing Governor Hobbs’ budget proposal but based on the left-wing wish list of spending details disclosed so far, I’m confident to say that it will be dead on arrival,” state house Speaker Ben Toma tweeted.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Justin Wilmeth said Hobbs’ budget is stuffed with ideas unlikely to become reality.

“This FY24 budget proposal by the Governor is a bloated turkey with two left wings. Translation: it won’t fly,” he tweeted.

Budgets are oftentimes subject to debate on both the state and national level, and it usually requires compromises at some point. It is clear that Republicans in the state House are going to be holding the line against her spending policies, especially when she wants to scrap a school choice program that truly exemplifies modern conservative policy in action.


As the “Arizona Agenda” Substack mentioned on Friday, the budget is typically an area where it’s reasonable to assume that bipartisan compromise can happen. But the fact that Hobbs decided to go bold against a conservative legislature, even if it’s by narrow margins, is proof that she’s gearing up for a losing battle.

Hobbs seems content with getting the headlines that will win her favor among the Democratic base, but the reality is that she will have to negotiate with Republicans. It’s going to take a lot more time and effort for Hobbs and Democrats to undo the years-long legacy of conservatism in the Grand Canyon State.


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