Death by a Thousand Cuts

Educational freedom opponents continue their attacks on Arizona families, one cut at a time. One state Senator filed a dozen anti-educational freedom bills this session. Two of those bills were heard this week in committee. Unfortunately, one of them passed.

Senate Education committee members considered SB 1353 and SB 1354 , both of which are designed to chip away at educational freedom by attacking the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program with seemingly minor new regulations – but with an end game of dismantling it altogether.

SB 1353 requires the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) to provide an estimated cost of ESAs for the following fiscal year in the ADE budget request. The implication being this information isn’t already available. It also gives opponents of educational freedom an opportunity to spin the numbers to fit their narrative, as they have been doing since the inception of ESAs.

During the hearing, Senator Shawnna Bolick pointed out that ADE already posts an ESA report on a quarterly basis, highlighting the fact that an additional report is unnecessary and burdensome.

Still, SB 1353 passed by a vote of 4-3, with the deciding vote coming from Senator Ken Bennett, who said he isn’t in favor of the bill as is but would be willing to allow it to go forward for now.

SB 1354 also places unnecessary burdens on private schools that accept ESA students with disabilities by requiring certain therapies and accommodations. It also requires the schools to notify parents of what accommodations are available for the student in need – as if parents wouldn’t seek out a qualified school on their own and schools wouldn’t let parents know if they could accommodate the student.

Kevin Biesty of Arizona Christian Education Coalition testified against SB 1354, calling it a solution in search of a problem. He said families have used ESAs for special education for years quite successfully, and additional, unnecessary barriers and red tape in the bill come with no benefits.

Beth Lewis of Save our Schools, a vocal opponent of educational freedom, took advantage of the opportunity to bad-mouth the ESA program and shame the committee. But it was another opponent of
ESAs that was shamed when, after she testified, it was revealed that her son doesn’t even attend a school in Arizona.

Contrarily, testimony from three different mothers praised the use of an ESA to get their special education students the unique help they needed to thrive.

SB 1354 failed to pass by a vote of 3-4.

I thank Senators Bolick, Wadsack, and Kerr for standing up for parents and educational freedom by speaking out against these bad bills. I am also grateful to all those who voted against them.

The two bills are among 12 bills Senator Christine Marsh filed against educational freedom targeting the ESA program. Senator Marsh tried the same tactic last session, which gives us all an idea of what will happen to the ESA program if anti-family, anti-educational freedom lawmakers take control of the state House and/or Senate this November.

There is Good News

Two CAP–supported bills passed the Senate Health and Human Services committee this week.  SB 1628, the Arizona Women’s Bill of Rights will bring clarity, certainty, and uniformity to sex-specific state laws to help protect the private spaces and sports of girls and women.

SB 1511 requires health care providers and insurance companies that provide gender-altering drugs and surgeries to also provide care and coverage for those who detransition. Detransitioner, Chloe Cole gave a moving testimony about how she was pressured at a young age to “transition,” including having her breasts removed at age 15. She still struggles with the physical and emotional consequences of the gender-altering drugs and surgery.

Garry Ingraham of Love and Truth Network also testified to his experience and what he has witnessed counseling people through the detransiton process.

Erin Friday also testified about her struggle to keep her young daughter from being “transitioned” by the many influencers in her daughter’s life. Friday shared the long battle against the powerful LGBT lobby pushing young teenagers into a life of gender-altering drugs and surgeries. She referenced the social contagion aspect of the movement when stating half of her daughter’s Girl Scout troop said they wanted to “transition” all about the same time.

SB 1511 passed out of committee with a vote of 5-2.

I’m grateful for Senators Sine Kerr and Janae Shamp for sponsoring the two bills, and for all those senators who voted in favor of them.

Track the progress of all CAP–supported bills on our bill tracker page here.


  • Read here about Chloe Cole’s transition and detransition experience, and more about SB 1511.
  • Read here how a Mesa school got caught socially transitioning students and keeping parents in the dark.
  • Read here how students at one Scottsdale high school went to the District Superintendent to stop teachers from asking for pronouns.
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