Having choice in education helps tailor an education to a student’s unique learning needs, and it’s helped many families weather the educational challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. A decade ago in Arizona, the Goldwater Institute launched the first-ever Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) program, which gives families the tuition, tutoring, and teaching tools they need for their children to get the best education possible.

To date, we’ve brought this groundbreaking school choice program to six states. And in Arizona, participation in the ESA program has been surging both before and during COVID-19, especially as many public schools have closed their doors to in-person learning: Starting with fewer than 200 students its first year, the ESA program now serves roughly 10,000 Arizona children.

Arizona mom Marta MacBan can attest to the positive difference that having an ESA has made in her family’s life. In a new Goldwater Institute video, Marta explains how having an ESA has benefitted her daughter. You can watch the full video above and learn more about Goldwater’s efforts to expand school choice here.

Now, Arizona is moving closer to giving more education options to more students, expanding the idea that the Goldwater Institute pioneered. This week, state senators passed SB 1452, sponsored by Sen. Paul Boyer—a bill that would extend eligibility of the state’s ESA program to low-income communities, giving families greater control over the education dollars allotted for their children. Read more about the bill—and the positive impact of ESAs on Arizona families—in a new In Defense of Liberty post from Matt Beienburg, Goldwater Director of Education Policy and Director of the Van Sittert Center for Constitutional Advocacy, here.

Supreme Court Should End Forced Union Representation

In Janus v. AFSCME, the Supreme Court declared that the First Amendment forbids governments from requiring their employees to pay union fees. But Janus only ended those forced fees—it didn’t stop public sector unions from “representing” workers who aren’t union members and don’t want a union to speak for them.

Now, Ohio public school teacher Jade Thompson is asking the Court to take that next step and strike down state laws that authorize government bodies to recognize a union as employees’ “exclusive representative.” The Goldwater Institute has filed an amicus brief asking the Court to hear Thompson’s case. We argue that exclusive representation laws not only violate employees’ First Amendment rights but also create superpowered “factions” that undermine our republican system of government.

“Eliminating public sector unions’ power of exclusive representation would reduce government unions to the kinds of factions the Founders anticipated in designing the Constitution—still dangerous, but limited by the political process,” writes Goldwater Institute Senior Attorney Jacob Huebert—one of the attorneys who litigated Janus—at In Defense of Liberty. “The Supreme Court should therefore hear Jade Thompson’s case, both to protect her First Amendment rights and to ensure that the problem of faction will be duly curbed as the Founders intended.” You can read his full post here.

Just Say No to Government Theft

Civil asset forfeiture allows police and prosecutors in states across the country to take, keep, and profit from someone’s property without even charging them with a crime—much less convicting them of one. At the Goldwater Institute, we’re working hard to fight this form of government theft—and thanks to our efforts, the Arizona Legislature took an important step forward this week in a needed effort to help prevent civil asset forfeiture.

Sponsored by Rep. Travis Grantham, HB 2810 passed the House Criminal Justice Reform Committee with unanimous support. This long-overdue bill states that law enforcement must obtain a conviction before the government can take your property, along with other critical safeguards. The bill will now head to the House floor.

Originally created to fight organized crime, civil forfeiture is now mostly used against single individuals for small amounts of money or property. Nationally, the median currency forfeiture averages only about $1,300, the Institute for Justice finds, but hiring an attorney to fight back can easily cost more than double that. That means that for many Americans, it’s simply not worth fighting back—and that’s especially true for those with limited financial means. And hundreds of millions of dollars are forfeited in this way every single year across America.

The Goldwater Institute is a leader in standing up to civil asset forfeiture. Last year, for example, Tucson handyman Kevin McBride was left stranded when police took away his Jeep using civil forfeiture laws and demanded $1,900 to return it. Goldwater threatened to sue the government and Kevin got his Jeep back. You can learn more about what the Goldwater Institute is doing to stop this form of government theft here.

And speaking of government theft, the Goldwater Institute will be hosting a special webinar this Wednesday (February 24) at 11 a.m. AZ time (1 p.m. EST) to talk about the problem of asset forfeiture—and how Goldwater is fighting back. Goldwater President and CEO Victor Riches and Paul Avelar, Managing Attorney of the Institute for Justice’s Arizona office, will discuss the litigation and legislative reform efforts happening across the country to stop civil asset forfeiture—and talk about why this is an urgent issue that ought to be addressed now.

To learn about the webinar and to register, click here. We hope you can join us!

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