(The Center Square) – Arizona school districts will violate state law next week by sending representatives to a meeting where they will encourage attendees to overturn the state’s new universal school choice law, the Goldwater Institute alleges.

The free-market legal nonprofit sent a letter to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office asking it to investigate and stop this behavior.

Arizona law bars school districts from spending district money or resources, including personnel, to influence election outcomes, the Goldwater Institute points out. This includes ballot initiatives and efforts to get questions onto the ballot. 

Yet, public school district employees are set to attend Arizona School Boards Association’s (ASBA) “Law Conference” scheduled for September 7-9. 

It will include programming put on by “Friends of the ASBA.” The organization opposes school choice and is using the conference to gather signatures on a petition to overturn the universal school choice reform via ballot referendum, Goldwater said.

Earlier in the year, the Institute helped push for the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program. Arizona families who participate in the program receive more than $6,500 per year per child for private school, homeschooling, micro-schools, tutoring, and other forms of education outside of traditional public schools.

“This first-in-the-nation reform will empower all families to customize their child’s education experience to best meet their needs,” the Goldwater Institute wrote in its news release. “But entrenched government special interests who feel threatened by parental empowerment and choice want to use taxpayer dollars to stop universal ESAs from becoming a reality – in violation of state law.”

Should the initiative be certified for the 2024 election, the ESA expansion would be put on hold. 

The Goldwater Institute adds that this news should make families angry.

“Arizonans should be appalled to learn that school districts are using taxpayer resources to have district employees participate in an event clearly geared toward a political objective,” it wrote. “That’s why the Goldwater Institute is taking action to expose this illegal activity and request that the Attorney General’s Office enforce the law.”

“All Arizona families should be free to make educational choices for their children without having the government work against them by rigidly defending a status quo that protects bureaucrats and government unions,” it added. “And entrenched governmental interests in education should certainly not be permitted to use hard-earned taxpayer dollars to maintain this status quo and deprive parents of educational freedom.”

In 2018, Arizona voters rejected a ballot question that would have made ESAs available for all public school students in the state. The measure failed 35.2% to 64.8%.

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