The Arizona School Board Association (ASBA) is a non-profit organization known for supporting a wide array of liberal education causes. While their membership includes individual members, most of their funding comes from taxpayer funded K-12 school boards, accredited community colleges, charter school boards, and state accommodation schools.
This is significant given their involvement with the referendum effort on SB1431, legislation that expanded the Education Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) program for all students in Arizona. Under the bill, students and parents who decide to utilize the program will receive an ESA scholarship to attend the school of their choice. ASBA is strongly opposed to the program, and has partnered with the political committee Save Our Schools to collect the needed 75,321 signatures to refer SB1431 to the November 2018 ballot.
Over the last month, ASBA has sent emails urging people to contribute, volunteer and sign up for the referendum efforts. They even hosted a panel discussion where they boasted that it would be a great opportunity for people to sign, collect, and drop off petitions in support of the referendum effort.
Suffice to say, taxpayer dollars being diverted to overt electioneering activities—public funding specifically allocated to educate students—should be setting off alarm bells at the state capitol. Under A.R.S. 15-511(F), it states that “a school district shall not spend monies for membership in an association that attempts to influence the outcome of an election.” Arizona campaign finance law is clear on this point; organizations that engage in support of the circulation of a petition is by definition attempting to influence the outcome of an election. ASBA has decided to jeopardize their largest funding source on a partisan electioneering crusade.
In addition to the potential legal issues associated with taxpayer funded electioneering by ASBA, it is a bit surprising that the same organization that has been relentless in their attacks against the legislature and Governor for refusing to “fully fund” education have the ability to divert precious resources away from the classroom and into campaign activities.
While individual School Board members have a right to personally advocate for the education policies they believe in, they owe a sacred duty to utilize every tax dollar they receive for its intended purpose – educating our children – not pushing their own political agendas through 3rd party non-profit organizations.
Regardless of where one stands on the ESA issue, it is not too much to ask that taxpayer money intended for education is actually used for education. Lawmakers should take a very close look at this issue and do whatever it takes to end the abuse.