School Choice Expansion Pushed By Arizona Governor In “Any Way We Can”

By Rick Gonzales | 2 weeks ago

doug ducey school choice

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has some big goals. In his eighth and final State of the State Address, he laid them all out. One of his biggest goals was implementing school choice on a wide scale.

His comments regarding school choice began with, “This session, let’s expand school choice any way we can.” He then ended his rousing school choice agenda with “Send me the bills and I’ll sign them.” A standing ovation followed, setting Ducey’s goal in motion.

This is Gov. Ducey’s last year in office and he plans to go out with a bang. Not only does he want to tackle the school choice issue, but Ducey also has Arizona water and Arizona southern border security on his mind. Of the former, Ducey envisions investing funds in “water technology of the future.” This would include grabbing water from the Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California, and turning it into drinkable water through desalinization. “Instead of just talking about desalination, the technology that made Israel the world’s superpower, how about we pave the way to make it actually happen?” he said via Fronteras.

As far as his southern border is concerned, Ducey promised “significant new investments” to help the southern border strike force. He also promised new equipment so officers can better pursue criminals. Ducey did acknowledge that his first issue will be dealing with Washington and how President Biden’s open-border policies have devastated local communities.

But where Ducey got most of his praise was when he began to touch on school choice expansion. “There’s been too much attention put on masks and not nearly enough placed on math, a focus on restrictions rather than reading and writing,” he said, making sure to let state education leaders know full and well that Arizona schools will remain open, and they now need to focus on moving forward.

Ducey touched on why the focus was on school choice, open schools and focusing on the future. “It’s students of color and those in poverty who have been most impacted by the COVID-era posturing and politics of some school board bureaucrats,” he said. Ducey went on for almost ten minutes, explaining the breakdowns in the system and what is needed to fix them.

He took umbrage once again with the critical race theory that is being taught in schools. In the last session, Republican legislators tried to introduce policies that would have banned teaching critical race theory in schools but found their efforts unsuccessful. Ducey appears undaunted by this. Like many he seems to think school choice may be the answer.

Gov. Ducey also said there needs to be more transparency when it comes to what kids are being taught in school. “Let’s require all that a child is taught, all curriculum and academic materials be put online and available to search and review by every parent, grandparent, and interested citizen,” Ducey said. The governor has set clear goals focused on giving parents choice in schooling and more control over it.

One more thing Gov. Ducey is fully backing is a new summer program. This program will be aimed at helping those students terribly affected by the pandemic and school closures. The focus will be helping students catch up on math, reading, and American civics.

You can watch the governor’s full state of the state address including his comments on school choice, below…

While Ducey’s address, and not just the school choice portion, was met with much approval, not everyone was happy with his comments. Democratic House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding said there was one glaring item missing from Ducey’s State of the State Address and that was what Ducey planned on doing about Arizona’s aggregate expenditure limit for its public schools. Ducey has until March 1, 2022, to raise the limit or Arizona public school districts will be forced to cut nearly $1 billion from their budgets. Bolding commented on this after Ducey’s address stating, “Most public schools will face a 15% cut in a few weeks and you need two-thirds of the Legislature to actually raise that limit. He didn’t mention it one time.”

Bolding wasn’t the only one in opposition of Gov. Ducey’s address. Vice president of the Arizona Education Association, Marisol Garcia, also expressed her disappointment saying via ABC 15, “I didn’t hear anything about safety protocols, I don’t even think I heard the word ‘teacher’ today.” Her disappointment, she says, comes from Ducey’s failure to prioritize public education and his decision to back school choice and parents instead. She feels that Ducey’s attack on it will not only make it more difficult to recruit qualified teachers to Arizona, but it will also be difficult to keep the ones they already have.

It will be interesting to follow Ducey’s “any way we can” approach to making school choice a reality. Many Arizona state leaders appear to be on board with Ducey’s edict. The question now will be, will it all get done?