PHOENIX - The last six Arizona Teachers of the Year delivered a harsh message Monday to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, accusing him of betraying them by backing a school-voucher bill that steers more tax dollars to private and religious schools.
In a letter they hand-delivered to the governor, the teachers say:
As Teachers of the Year, we know the importance of making our students feel valued. However, we don’t feel valued. Thursday’s actions prove to us what we all feared: that we don’t just feel undervalued, we actually are.
"It hard not to feel betrayed when we went out and stumped for (Prop) 123," 2014 teacher of the year Beth Maloney said after meeting with the governor.
"People voted for 123 because we said it was a good idea... Now there's a very real sense of 'We got played.' I think the taxpayers of Arizona just got played."
Ducey relied on teachers' public support last year to pass the Prop 123 ballot measure, which restored about 75 percent of the school dollars the Legislature had illegally withheld over several years.
The school-voucher bill, which Ducey pushed for and signed last week, made Arizona the first state to offer all parents tax dollars to send their children to private or religious schools.
It was passed by both the House and the Senate by just one vote, after a cap on the number of vouchers was added.
What shocked the public school advocates was that the conservative lobbying group behind the bill -- the Goldwater Institute -- emailed supporters after it passed, saying it would get the cap lifted.
Goldwater CEO Darcy Olsen said in the email:
There is a cap at 5,000 new kids per year; we will get it lifted. Thank you for the years of support that have made this victory possible. If we don’t get the education system back, we will lose our country. We are getting the system back.
The teachers, despite their outcry and their clout as top educators, don't believe they changed Ducey's mind on funding private education with state tax dollars.
Christine Marsh, the 2016 teacher of the year, said Ducey was non-committal on whether he'd lift the cap to allow more families to get vouchers.
The governor's office issued this statement in response to the teachers:
The governor found the meeting to be very positive, and appreciates the opportunity to talk with these educators. The teachers all had constructive comments, and it’s clear there’s a lot of opportunity for agreement around a number of issues, including increasing resources for K-12 education.