Anti-School Choice Petition in Arizona Might Be Doomed Despite Original Lofty Signature Estimate

The Save Our Schools Arizona petition is presumably going to fail now that it’s become clear that the committee reported a much higher estimated signature count.

Save Our Schools wants to get rid of the recent Empowerment Scholarship Account expansion in Arizona, which allows all students to get up to $7,500 to go toward other educational expenses for a charter school, private school, or homeschooling.

When they submitted the petition on Sept. 23, the group said that they had roughly 141,714 signatures, which is well above the 118,843 needed to get ESA expansion on the ballot.

However, the Goldwater Institute estimated that they only received 88,866 signatures based on the sheets made public by the Secretary of State’s office. ABC 15 Arizona’s Garrett Archer reported that the Secretary of State’s office confirmed that there are 8,175 petition sheets submitted, and there is only room for 15 signatures per page.

In addition, Archer estimated that the maximum that could have been submitted was roughly 123,000, but that would require an extraordinarily high signature verification rate to hit the 118,843 signature threshold.

The executive director for Save Our Schools, Beth Lewis, said that the group now believes they will not be successful in their efforts.

“I think we will end up short, yes,” Lewis said, according to Arizona Mirror.

Lewis said in a statement that the projected signature count was “necessarily estimates” and referred to the Goldwater Institute as “anti-democratic.”

Even though it’s not official, the likelihood that the petition will fail is high, and state Republicans are celebrating the fact that it likely won’t make it to the ballot.

“Chalk up another major victory for Arizona families wanting the freedom to choose the education that best meets their child’s needs. School choice is increasingly popular with Arizona parents, especially those whose children are stuck in a failing school, so I find it baffling that anyone would try so hard to take that choice away from parents. It’s good that they have apparently failed,” Arizona state House Majority Leader Ben Toma said in a statement.

He continued:

“Proponents of the failed referendum built their effort on the fallacy that public schools are harmed by Arizona’s ESA program. That of course is untrue. In Arizona, we have seen that when funding follows the student, the performance of schools and students has improved. Moreover, the dramatic increase in K-12 education funding led by the Republican Legislature in the last several years demonstrates our commitment to all schools and, in turn, we expect them to continue to serve and improve the academic achievement of Arizona’s students.”

The program is expected to be popular, as Arizona has numerous charter schools and alternative education options.

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