A coalition of parents and public-education advocates from Save Our Schools Arizona are answering a six-figure ad blitz from some of Arizona’s most influential political players with a $25 push of a video on social media.
Since Feb. 5, the video has had been viewed about 12,500 times, has been shared 160 times and has had about 4,500 impressions on Twitter, the group says. That’s far fewer people than likely have seen or heard the big-money ad, but the group wanted to respond to its claims and has demonstrated grassroots success.
The 30-second response video, titled “What If,” asks voters to imagine the gains that could happen if Arizona adequately funded the education system. Photos of children in classrooms, teachers, and scenic Arizona landmarks flash against the screen.
“What if I told you there is a state whose public schools are starving because its politicians won’t invest in its future?” a voice in the ad says. “Or, that today’s students get $1,000 a year less toward their education than kids a decade ago. A state that has 2,000 classrooms without permanent teachers because they’re the lowest paid in the nation.
“Arizona’s public schools develop our future workforce, so we need real investment in public education to keep Arizona’s economy competitive.”
Group formed in opposition to voucher expansion
The video directs viewers to the website of the group, which formed in opposition to the of expansion of the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Program last year.
The group has forced a referendum of that expansion, which makes all 1.1 million school kids eligible to apply to use public money for private school tuition. The program currently is limited to include students with special needs and those from poor-performing schools.
The Arizona Republic last year found the program was largely benefiting families from wealthier areas, and that oversight of the program was lax.
Ducey used the weight of his office to narrowly advance the measure through the GOP-controlled Legislature last year.
Save Our Schools Arizona gathered enough signatures to let voters decide if they want to keep the program, or scrap it.
The group’s video, which they are promoting on social media, come weeks after a coalition of Ducey allies launched their own ads on TV, radio and the internet to trumpet what they call achievements made to the education system in recent years.
A spokesman said the group would spend “six figures” in the first week of the campaign, which began Jan. 22.
The newly-formed Arizona Education Project is a 501(c)3 non-profit that does not have to disclose its donors.
However, it has publicly said donors include Pinnacle West Capital Corp., the parent company of Arizona Public Service Co., Services Group of America and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Matthew Benson, spokesman for the project, said with the response video, “the doom-and-gloom crowd is bringing more negativity to Arizona’s education debate.”
Dawn Penich-Thacker, of Save our Schools Arizona said the group waited until after the Super Bowl to publish the video. Volunteers wrote the script and put the video and graphics together while another volunteer narrated.
They spent $25 to promote it on Facebook, she said.
Penich-Thacker said it is intended to “set the record straight” about the state’s education system “because voters deserve the truth about what the governor and his friends spend money on and what they don’t: They invest in glossy ads but not adequate classroom funding. They invest in air time but not competitive teacher pay.
“They invest in empty accolades for the same starving schools they simultaneously want families to flee using an expanded ESA voucher program.”