A political fight is under way in Arizona over a petition drive to thwart the state's school voucher program.
A new state law, which strengthens the original 2011 law, is being challenged by a petition drive that could put the issue before voters in 2018.
The required number of ballot signatures has been turned in and now advocates and opponents of the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts are squaring off in court, and the court of public opinion, over the next step.
School choice advocate Kim Martinez of the Arizona Federation for Children claims opponents may have made a fatal flaw when they "misidentified" the legislation session in which the latest bill, SB 1431, was passed.
"Because of that," she says, "every single petition they circulated incorrectly identifies the law that they're trying to refer to the ballot."
The petitions state that SB1431 was enacted during the "fifty-third session of the legislature" but the bill was technically approved during the first regular session of the fifty-third legislature, The Arizona Capitol Times reported.
Attorneys for the American Federation for Children are claiming that mistake is enough to invalidate the signatures but it's uncertain if the state elections director or a trial judge will agree to that claim or to other legal inquiries questioning the petition-gathering process.
Martinez also suggests that the school choice opponents are wasting their time attacking a program that, in reality, is a small effort.
"It's a misplaced effort because this program is so small," she says. "But it's so life-changing and so direly important for the families that need it."