Families protest Katie Hobbs after threat to defund Arizona’s ESA program

PHOENIX — Families across Arizona gathered in protest in front of the capitol this week after Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs threatened to defund the state’s popular school choice program.

The Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program gives parents more influence over their children’s education by allowing them to retain control of their tax dollars and use those dollars however best fits their children’s individual needs. Nearly 46,000 children are now benefiting from it.

Hobbs claimed during her State of the State address earlier this month that ESAs “will likely bankrupt this state” and, a few days later, released a budget proposal that would, if approved, defund the program in its current form. Although Republican lawmakers have already declared the budget provision “dead on arrival,” the governor is pushing forward.

Parents didn’t take that well.

“Is the public school model the only way to educate children, and should children only have access to that by being in that model?” one Mesa mother asked. “It just does not seem like there’s any reason why anybody would be against that ‘education for all’ model” offered by school choice.

Another mother working with Padres Unidos said that “she would, ‘declare war against anybody who wants to tear this program down.’” A local high school student who currently benefits from ESAs emphasized the importance of “being able to access our own tax dollars” that go toward “funding whatever education we need.”