STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Members of the Arizona Legislative Indigenous Peoples Caucus released the following statements against Senate Bill 1224, which would allow Arizona tax dollars to be spent on tuition for out-of-state private religious schools. This bill will be heard in the Senate Education Committee tomorrow around 2:00 p.m. in Senate Hearing Room 1.
Senator Sally Ann Gonzales:
“We must truly prioritize the education of our Native American students by adequately funding their public schools, not just use them as an excuse to advance an agenda of expanding school vouchers against the wishes of Arizona voters.
“Instead of sending Arizonans' hard-earned tax dollars to out-of-state private religious schools, we should fully fund the Office of Indian Education. Funding for this office, which serves as a liaison between tribal schools and outside agencies to provide resources for Native American students to meet their educational and cultural needs, has been one of our Democratic priorities for years. Yet, Republicans refuse to fund the staffing it needs to properly function. This shows how disingenuous these Republicans really are when they claim they're pushing this bill because they care about Native children's education.”
Senator Victoria Steele:
“School voucher expansion was soundly rejected by Arizona voters just two years ago but, as we've seen time and again, Republicans never let public opinion get in the way of serving special interests. Now they're using Native American students and their families in their latest attempt to expand school vouchers.
“Native Americans have been taken advantage of for centuries, so we know it when we see it and we won’t stand for it. We won't let this effort, led by a D.C. special interest group, use our Native children as pawns in their anti-public education agenda.”
Senator Jamescita Peshlakai:
“Our public schools are the foundation of our children’s future as they reach for the American Dream, but Republicans want to divert their funding to create private school scholarships outside of Arizona. This sets a dangerous precedent that opens the door for an unlimited amount Arizonans' hard-earned tax dollars to flow out of state.
“While other states have blocked school vouchers, and Arizona voters soundly defeated their expansion via Prop 305, Republicans continue using our vulnerable children to advance their agenda of enriching the rich at the expense of the working class. If you believe that every Arizona child should have access to great schools in their community, please stand with us against this attack on public education.”
Representative Jennifer Jermaine:
"Two thirds of Arizona voters said they didn't want vouchers expanded when they voted No on Proposition 305 in 2018. The voters have spoken – loudly and clearly – and the Legislature must listen."
Representative Arlando Teller:
"I remain staunchly opposed to expanding vouchers. If this bill is passed, it will establish a precedent that Arizona should serve facilities like courts, social services and roads in New Mexico and Utah, like we have on the Navajo Nation in the Four Corners area. Why shouldn't we take advantage of that? We should think long and hard before we open this door."
Representative Myron Tsosie:
"The schools on the Navajo Nation need investment to help improve performance. This bill would only continue to drain those resources, and direct taxpayer money out of state. The effort to expand vouchers against the voters' wishes would not stop if this bill passes, it would be a wedge in the door to keep expanding the program. Our Tribe is being used to advance a political agenda.”