The Koch brothers have set their sights on Arizona trying to leverage a win for school vouchers.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey attended a policy session with the Kochs' network of donors in California last month. The Koch-funded LIBRE Initiative has launched an education program in Arizona, including making a school-choice video with local moms.
"All kids learn differently, and if we are going to invest in our children's education, we should invest in everything that works for them," said Carlos Alfaro, with the LIBRE Initiative.
Vouchers use taxpayer money to help children offset expenses to enroll in private or parochial schools, instead of attending free district or charter schools.
A grassroots organization of parents and teachers, Save Our Schools Arizona, is leading the effort to stop voucher expansion. Last year, SOS gathered enough petition signatures to stop a voucher expansion law from going into effect in Arizona and to put the issue to a statewide vote in November 2018.
"For us, this is about our quality of life our families, and that's the difference," said SOS spokeswoman Dawn Penich-Thacker.
In Arizona, school vouchers are known as Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. Currently, approximately 4,500 students receive the scholarships, but they must have special needs or attend a failing school to qualify.
The proposed expansion would cap scholarships at 30,000 kids, and all K-12 students would eligible after a phase-in period.
A spokesman for The LIBRE Institute contacted ABC15 after the original airing of this story to clarify the school-choice video was created by the Institute, not The LIBRE Initiative. The organizations are both backed by the Koch brothers, and Alfaro has served as spokesman for both organizations.
“The LIBRE Institute’s education campaign is solely dedicated to informing families on existing educational options available for students – from open enrollment, public charter schools to private schools and empowerment scholarship accounts – and not on the current debate regarding the explanation of empowerment scholarship accounts.” said Wadi Gaitan, Press Sectary for The LIBRE Institute.