Before Betsy DeVos There Was Debbie Lesko

Following the powerful demonstrations made by teachers in Oklahoma, Kentucky and West Virginia, the Red For Ed movement in Arizona has continued to gain momentum. Teachers all over the state, which currently ranks near the bottom in teacher pay, are demanding that Governor Doug Ducey and Republican legislators pay educators a competitive and livable salary.


Debbie Lesko –former Republican state senator and candidate for Arizona’s 8th congressional seat – has a track record that makes it abundantly clear that she does not have the backs of Arizona students and teachers. Long before Betsy DeVos became Secretary of Education, State Senator Lesko was finding ways to slash funding for public schools and shortchange our students and teachers:


2009: Lesko accused Arizona teachers of being “selfish” for protesting cuts to education.


But when mobs of teachers-union officials and union-member teachers show up at the state Capitol protesting, screaming and demanding that their programs not be cut, it leaves me with the impression they are being selfish.”

[Debbie Lesko, Arizona Republic, 3/11/09]


2009: Lesko voted for education cuts that even then-Governor Brewer, a Republican, said went too far.


2011: Lesko stated she was “proud” of Republicans’ work on a budget that cut $450 million from kindergarten through higher education.


2015: Lesko voted for a state budget that cut $146 million from K-12 schools and $11 million from the Department of Child Safety.


2015 & 2016: Lesko sponsored legislation to slash funds for desegregation efforts in local school districts, claiming she didn’t think the problem still existed to a significant extent, “if at all.”


“I really don’t think these problems exist, if at all, to the extent that they did decades ago”

[Debbie Lesko, Arizona Capitol Times, 2/27/15]


Arizona Capitol Times: “The Peoria Republican’s SB1125, which advanced through the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 10 by a 3-2 party-line vote, would eventually leave more than a dozen school districts millions of dollars short of their normal spending levels.”


2017: Lesko pushed a voucher expansion bill that could cost Arizona taxpayers tens of millions of dollars or more a year.


Arizona Republic: “… expansion of the Empowerment Scholarship Account program could divert from the state’s general fund as much as $35 million a year in 2020-2021 […] By 2030, the state could then be paying for many of the children attending Arizona's private and religious schools, pushing the potential costs to as much as $75 million a year…”


Arizona Daily Star Headline: “Arizona Supreme Court: Voters Should Decide Whether To Expand School Vouchers.”


2017: Lesko met her match at a conference for the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).


Lesko To DeVos: “All I can say is wow. I am so excited that you’re here.”



Bottom Line: Lesko voted year after year to slash K-12 funding and siphon funds from Arizona’s public schools, and she had the gall to call Arizona’s hardworking teachers ‘selfish’ for protesting budget cuts. If elected, Lesko will be nothing more than a rubber stamp for the DeVos – Trump education agenda that makes steamrolling our nation’s teachers and public schools a top priority.


Debbie Lesko is bad for the West Valley’s families, bad for Arizonans, and bad for our country’s teachers and students.