Three Anti-School Choice Republicans Lose Re-Election, Superintendent Bids

Parents use their voice at the ballot box
Republican Party Cut Out of Paper
Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash

Three anti-school choice Republicans in the Arizona legislature lost their bids for re-election and a run for Superintendent of Public Instruction after voters cast their ballots Tuesday.

Rep. Joel John (R-LD4) ran for re-election to the Arizona House of Representatives in the newly drawn District 25, and Rep. Joanne Osborne (R-LD13) attempted a switch from the House to the Arizona Senate in District 29. Meanwhile, Rep. Michelle Udall (R-LD25) ran to be the Arizona’s chief education executive. 

All three lost their elections, two coming in dead last.

With 97% reporting at the time this article was written, Udall only managed to garner just over 25% of the vote, trailing former Superintedent of Public Instruction and Attorney General Tom Horne and political newcomer Shiry Sapir.

Despite incumbency advantage, John lost his election to Rep. Tim Dunn and Michael Carbone. Osborne lost to Trump-backed Janae Shamp.

The trio have earned an anti-school choice reputation at the Captitol after killing Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) expansion last legislative session and blocking bills to expand parental rights in education. 

In 2021, Rep. Shawnna Bolick sponsored an ESA amendment to HB2898 that would have increased access to ESAs to low-income students and reduced the required number of days from 100 to 30 for a public school student to be eligible. The amendment failed after John, Osborne, and Udall voted against it.

The following year, John killed SB1211, a bill from Sen. Nancy Barto (R-LD15) that would give parents the opportunity to access and review instructional materials and activities used in their child’s school. This would include textbooks, reading materials, websites, videos, and online applications used for student instruction.

Osborne told the Arizona Mirror in December 2021 that any ESA expansion plans should be approved by the voters, not the legislature. Before session this year, Udall said she is “[O]pposed to any expansion without accountability.” John echoed Udall’s sentiments: “There needs to be a littly parity or a little give-and-take with [ESA expansion], or maybe reduce some of the burdens on the public schools before expansions are continued.

The three would go on to vote for universal ESA expansion in June 2022. The bill from House Majority Leader Ben Toma, HB2853, is far more expansive compared to ESA legislation they blocked previously. Governor Doug Ducey (R-AZ) signed the bill and the new law is expected to go into effect this September

According to the Arizona Mirror, Osborne was the only one to explain their vote, after blocking similar measures in the past.

“Quite frankly, there is a point when people in this body must say, we need to govern and we must listen to all the voices in this state that is very divided.”

HB2853 passed the House in late June, just over a month before Arizona August 2nd primary election. 

As the issue of school choice and parental rights becomes front-and-center for many elections, it’s not unreasonable to believe that a change in tone (and in votes) from John, Osborne, and Udall were to bolster their appeal to voters in the Republican primary.

Despite their best efforts to buffer their less than ideal votes for a Republican primary by approving universal ESA expansion, they will not be returning to the legislature or taking up a new role in the executive tower in January 2023.

Clay Robinson
Clay Robinson is a senior at Arizona State University and a fellow at the Chalkboard Review.