Arizona Department of Education Creates ‘STOP-IT’ Program to Teach Dangers of Fentanyl, Place Emergency Narcan in Schools

Tom Horne

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne announced the creation of a new Arizona Department of Education (ADE) task force to educate students about the dangers posed by the synthetic opioid fentanyl and provide emergency Narcan for school staff to reverse potentially fatal overdoses.

Horne announced the formation of the School Training Overdose Preparedness and Intelligence Taskforce (STOP-IT) on Tuesday, revealing the new effort will educate children about the dangers of fentanyl and other opioids while providing schools with resources to save lives.

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Arizona to Enlist Off-Duty Police to Guard Schools amid ‘Pervasive Officer Shortage’

State Superintendent of Public Schools Tom Horne announced on Wednesday that he contracted with a private company to fill law enforcement vacancies at schools in 11 Arizona counties. Horne said the new contract would ensure safety of students, teachers, and staff despite a “pervasive officer shortage” throughout the state.

The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) revealed a new contract with Off Duty Management (ODM), a private company, to schedule off-duty law enforcement to serve as School Safety Officers (SSOs).

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Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Will Use AI to ‘Scale Up’ After 50,000 Students Join in One Year

The new director of Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program announced plans to use artificial intelligence (AI) to “scale up” the program’s operations after 50,000 students joined the school voucher program.

Arizona now has nearly 62,000 students enrolled in the ESA program, according to Arizona Capitol Times, including about 12,000 students who enrolled in the last three months. The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) previously estimated another 50,000 students could join over the next year.

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Arizona Education Superintendent Tom Horne Advises Schools to Not Permit Biological Males in Biological Females Restrooms

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne (R) released a statement on Thursday “strongly advising” all schools statewide not to enact policies that permit biological males from using biological females’ restrooms, locker rooms, and showers.

According to Horne (pictured above), his statement was prompted by recent questions and concerns from outraged parents about school policies permitting biological males to use biological females’ restroom facilities, saying they may remove their children from schools that allow this in Arizona.

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State Representative Matt Gress Joins Arizona Department of Education School Safety Task Force

State Representative Matt Gress (R-Scottsdale) is joining the new School Safety Task Force recently established by the Arizona Department of Education.

This follows Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne inviting Gress to join the task force which evaluates funding gaps and statutory limitations as well as makes recommendations to build upon the integrity of the Arizona Department of Education’s school safety program.

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Arizona Gov. Hobbs Calls ESAs ‘Unsustainable’ over $320 Million Shortfall Despite May Warning

Governor Katie Hobbs launched new criticisms against the Empowerment Savings Accounts (ESA) program, the school choice initiative allowing all Arizona families to direct education spending to charter or private schools, calling ESAs “unsustainable” and “unaccountable” after reporting the program is estimated to cause a shortfall in the Arizona General Fund.

Total costs for the program are estimated to be $943 million, according to the governor. This will leave the General Fund with a potential shortfall of $319.8 million. Revenues for the General Fund are estimated to be $17.9 billion.

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Arizona Department of Education Cries Foul over Attorney General Mayes’ ESA Warning

The head of the Arizona Department of Education pushed back on a press release issued by Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, who warned that students participating in the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) program, Arizona’s growing school choice initiative, lose some rights and face unscrupulous vendors or scams after leaving the public school system.

A press release issued by Mayes’ office warned Arizonans that students entering the ESA program “give up rights,” especially from bills aimed at protecting children with disabilities and to access to their children’s educational records. Mayes lamented, “Families should not be denied admission or kicked out of private schools because of a child’s disabilities” and said she wants “families to know that if vendors or private schools” are abusing the program, “the Attorney General’s Office will investigate to the fullest extent of our authority.”

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Arizona Attorney General Strikes Down Superintendent Horne’s Dual Language Ban

Attorney General Kris Mayes announced Monday that the Arizona Department of Education cannot stop funding schools because of their choice to teach English language learners with dual language programs.

“Only those school districts and charter schools found by the Board to be noncompliant are barred from receiving monies from the English language learner fund,” Mayes wrote in her opinion.

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AG Kris Mayes Faces Bar Complaint Alleging Violation of Duties to State Clients

A bar complaint was filed against Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes last week. Chandler resident Charlie Schinke accused Mayes of violating her ethical duties to two state clients by threatening one with a potential criminal investigation and publicly admonishing another client in a press release.

Schinke asked the State Bar of Arizona to investigate whether Mayes violated Arizona Rules of Professional Conduct 1.6 and 1.7. He said, “In just the last month, Ms. Mayes appeared on television to threaten one of her clients with an investigation that could carry potential criminal dimensions, and publicly admonished another client in letters that she distributed in a press release.” He added, “The Attorney General’s self-appointed status as the investigator of her own clients not only is inconsistent with her statutory responsibilities but compromises the ethical obligations that bind all members of the Arizona Bar.” Schinke explained, “Attorney General Mayes’ public criticisms of, and threats to investigate, her own clients are inconsistent with her duties of confidentiality and loyalty.”

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Arizona Officials Offer Heated Responses About School Choice Cost Projection

Arizona’s universal school choice program is estimated to see significant growth over the next fiscal year to 100,000 students with a price tag of $900 million. Opponents of the program say its cost will bankrupt the state but others say the expense will be offset.

In complying with state law, the Arizona Department of Education offered the Joint Legislative Budget Committee its annual estimate on what it would need to fund empowerment scholarship accounts for the upcoming fiscal year. With nearly 58,000 students already enrolled in the program, ADE projects the program will grow to 100,000 students in fiscal year 2024 at a cost of $900 million. 

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State House Democrat Leader Uses Cropped Letter to Blast Arizona School Voucher Program

State House Minority Leader Andrés Cano (D-Tucson) made a tweet Tuesday, sharing a letter from the Arizona Department of Education (ADE), and used it to blast the Universal Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) Program.

In this letter, Christine Accurso, leader of the ESA program, detailed the department’s estimations that there will be around 100,000 students enrolled in the program by the end of fiscal year 2024, and that it will cost roughly $900,000,000 to fund these students.

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Arizona Department of Education Files Response Brief in Case Challenging Arizona Sports Law

PHOENIX, Arizona – The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) held a press conference Wednesday detailing a new filing submitted in the lawsuit surrounding Arizona’s law, the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” that prevents biological males from competing against women in school sports.

“This case turns on one crucial fact: can plaintiffs prove that pre-puberty boys have no sports advantage over girls? They cannot,” according to the brief shared with reporters.

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Grants Approved to Fund Safety Officers on 301 Arizona Schools

The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) announced Monday that the State Board of Education has approved grant funding for 301 statewide schools to finance a school resource officer (SRO) on campus. This shows a significant increase in schools seeking armed security, as 190 campuses utilized the grant for officers during the previous cycle.

Additionally, it is not only more SROs coming to campuses, as Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne also got payments approved for 566 counselors and social workers around the state in over $45 million in grants. In total, the School Safety Program offered nearly $100 million in funding from state and federal monies. The grants will go into effect in the Fall of 2023 and last until the 2025/26 school year.

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Arizona Department of Education Pushes for Phoenix School Safety Grants Despite Delays from District Board

The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) announced Friday it would be recommending the State Board of Education (SBE) approve public safety grant requests presented by six Phoenix schools, despite inaction from the district board.

“Our first responsibility is to protect the safety and the lives of students and staff. The worst tragedy would be for a maniac to invade a school and kill students with no police officer there to protect them. In addition, the police officers are there all year, befriend the students, so students view them as friends rather than as the enemy, and the police officers also teach courses,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne (R).

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Arizona Department of Education Requests Changes for Lawsuit Against Arizona’s Law Separating Boys’ and Girls’ Sports

The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) announced Thursday it had filed a motion in court to have the venue of a lawsuit against the enforcement of an Arizona law changed from Tucson to Phoenix.

“Crucially, counsel for the parties are located in Phoenix. Even Plaintiffs are represented by local counsel in Phoenix, as is counsel for Superintendent [Tom] Horne. The result is that all of the Arizona lawyers are located in Phoenix, none are located in Tucson. That makes an overwhelming difference in the expense to the parties in litigating this case,” according to the motion, emailed to reporters.

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State Senate Republicans Urge Democrats to Cooperate in Creating a Bipartisan State Budget for Arizonans

With the Legislative session winding down, one of the major tasks left for lawmakers to accomplish is creating a state budget, which needs to be in place before July, or a government shutdown could occur. However, Senate President Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert) said State Democrats are inhibiting the process by not cooperating with budgeting requests.

“We are just weeks away from some government agencies running out of funding because legislative Democrats are stalling,” said Petersen. “I’m confident we would have already passed a budget had the Democrats spent the last seven weeks negotiating the budget with us, in good faith.”

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Universal Empowerment Scholarship Account Participation Soars in Arizona

A new report for the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute (GI) Monday revealed that participation in the state’s universal Empowerment Scholarship Account program is soaring, and so is Arizona’s economy.

“Arizona’s bet on universal school choice is already paying off. At the same time that enrollment in the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program is surging, the state’s revenue surplus has gone through the roof,” wrote Matt Beienburg, Director of Education Policy at the GI. “In the first four months of 2023 alone, enrollment in Arizona’s ESA program has soared by 7,000 students, bringing the total number of children served to over 51,000.”

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Superintendent of Public Instruction Continues Push for On-Campus Police, Extends Grant Deadline

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne revealed data yesterday showing support for School Resource Officers (SROs) on school district campuses and said his office would continue pushing to see this across the state.

“There is overwhelming support among parents living in the Phoenix Union District (PXU), statewide, as well as classroom teachers, to keep children and staff safe by having school resource officers at the schools. They not only provide safety, but teach classes, and become friendly with students, so that students learn to trust them, rather than viewing police as enemies,” Horne said.

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New Bill Would Make Arizona Teacher Pay Increases Transparent, Require School Districts to Comply

Arizona State Senator J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) shared in his weekly update to constituents that his bill, aimed at ensuring school districts comply with the state transparency laws, is moving along through the Legislature.

“Given the importance of having transparency with such a critical topic as teacher pay, I sponsored a bill (SB 1599) that would add some teeth to the law and instruct the Arizona Department of Education to engage if a school district is not in compliance. The bill has passed the Senate and is poised for a House Floor vote,” Mesnard said.

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Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne Encourages Schools to Adopt a Character Education Program Ahead of Grant Applications

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne (R) released a statement Tuesday encouraging schools to adopt a character-focused curriculum created by Character Counts (CC) as new matching grant applications will open soon.

“When I was last Superintendent, from 2003 to 2011, we successfully implemented The Six Pillars of Character [Six Pillars]: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and good citizenship,” said Horne. “Unlike social and emotional learning [SEL], which has become a distraction from academics, this program was integrated into education such as students writing essays on each of the pillars. As we renew the focus on academics, it could provide an important balance to our students’ education.”

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Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne Urges Schools to Use Safety Grants to Place Armed Security on Campuses

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne (R) announced Wednesday that the next round of the School Safety Program (SSP) grant applications are open for public and charter schools to take advantage of. He urged schools to use this opportunity to put armed security on campus if they do not have any already.

“Every school should have a law enforcement officer to protect students and staff, and this should be accomplished on an urgent basis,” Horne said. “Delay in implementing this goal could leave schools more vulnerable to a tragic catastrophe. Schools that currently have no armed presence yet submit grants applications that do not request an officer will not receive a recommendation from this Department to the State Board of Education.”

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Lawsuit Filed Against Arizona Department of Education over LGBTQ Chat Rooms for Youths

An Arizona citizen, Peggy McClain, recently filed a lawsuit against the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) Superintendent Kathy Hoffman because of LGBTQ-focused chat rooms available on the ADE website where youths can speak to adults about sex and gender identity.

“She’s [Hoffman] in an office to protect children and to guide children and to make children better and she’s putting them in grave danger,” McClain said to the Arizona Sun Times via the phone.

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Arizona Department of Education Directs Pre-Teens to Trans Online Chat Rooms

A “Student Resources” page on the website of the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) directs pre-teens to LGBT sources of information and support. 

“These resources are provided to assist in the support of LGBTQ students in our schools and communities,” according to the ADE. “They were collected by members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community as part of ADE’s Equitable and Inclusive Practices Advisory Council.”

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Arizona Department of Education Sends $15.3 Million to Help Low-Income Students

The Arizona Department of Education announced it would award $15.3 million in funding for programs to improve the education quality it offers low-income and first-generation Americans.

“Parents deserve easy access to resources that help their children achieve their full potential,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said in a press release. “I know students and parents need more direct support when it comes to educational services outside of the classroom. These organizations are well prepared to support students and families and will help foster higher student achievement.”

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Arizona Student Assessments Hint at Significant Learning Loss Amid COVID Pandemic

Students in Arizona’s public schools failed reading and math assessments at higher rates this spring than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Test results from the AzM2 and MSAA – Arizona’s two statewide assessments conducted annually – show around oner-third of students who took the tests passed them, though the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) warns not to read too deeply into the low scores.

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Arizona Attorney General Leads Charge Against Biden Administration’s Race-Based School Discipline Policies

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich responded to the Biden Administration’s interest in potentially reviving a pre-K and K-12 discipline policy based on race. The U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a request for information early last month, asking the public to submit written comment on the state of discipline in pre-K and K-12 schools. In the accompanying press release, ED alluded that it would form policy to reduce the number of certain demographics being disciplined at higher rates, specifically citing Black and disabled students. Public commentary for ED’s request for information closed last Friday.

In response, Brnovich organized a coalition of 15 other attorney generals to submit a letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona opposing any discipline policy based on race. Brnovich asserted that a policy similar to the Obama-era discipline policy would be illegal. In 2014, the Obama Administration imposed a policy requiring schools to include disparate impact requirements within their disciplinary guidelines, referred to as the “2014 Dear Colleague Letter.” Brnovich recounted the history and cited several stories detailing failures of the policy, like students receiving no discipline for assaulting teachers. 

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Arizona Department of Education Awarded NAU $1 Million to Teach Culturally Responsive Education

Photo of two teachers in a classroom going through papers.

The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) awarded Northern Arizona University (NAU) $1 million to teach culturally responsive education in tribal schools. The grant, awarded at the beginning of last month, will apply to professional development programs and fellowships for tribal educators.

“Believing in the power of teachers and the desire to grow their capacity to write and teach curriculum that is culturally responsive is at the forefront of the Institute for Native-serving Educators (INE)[,]” read NAU’s press release.

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