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O'Callaghan: Talking public education and denouncing ESAs


Growing up in Scottsdale, I had the privilege of attending five SUSD schools.

The city was growing so fast that new schools kept opening; I went to two elementary schools and two middle schools without ever moving! At Chaparral High School, I received a top-flight education that enabled me to go to an Ivy League university and succeed in one of the most cutthroat industries in the world. None of this would have been possible without my public school teachers (including State Senator Christine Marsh); the opportunities I found within the SUSD, both inside and outside the classroom, enabled me to achieve the American Dream.

As a lifelong Democrat, an SUSD parent and a staunch advocate for public education, my unwavering commitment has always been to strengthen and fortify the public school system; we need to build up our public schools, not advocate for them to be dismantled. Our state currently ranks 48th in funding for public schools. Consequently, the SUSD must rely on voter-approved funding like the Maintenance & Operations (M&O) override, which is on the ballot right now. The override, which does not raise taxes, is essential to our public schools, so vote yes and mail back your ballot ASAP.

Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) are an existential threat to the public school system. Last year, almost 70,000 Arizona students received over $300 million of these vouchers, a figure set to rise further this year. Over 80% of that money is going to families that were already outside the public school system (which includes charters) prior to the program’s existence. The ESA program needs to be dismantled before it bankrupts the state; I am not anti-school choice and support helping the legitimately underprivileged or otherwise disadvantaged, but the current program is nothing but a boondoggle for the rich.