by David Safier
For those of you who don't get Steve Farley's weekly email report, here's his take on the Republican call (headed by Steve Yarbrough) for a special session to give private school tuition money to 400 children while schools, DES and health care are gutted:
No, it's not the budget crisis that they have been dancing around for the past four and a half months–it's their perceived need to create a new tax credit program for private school vouchers!
Specifically, they want to take more money away from our public schools and other public programs in order to subsidize the tuition of 375 disabled and foster children at private schools. This is an effort to resurrect a voucher scheme that was declared unconstitutional by the Arizona Supreme Court in March.
This move seems designed to gain sympathy from the public for Republican efforts to privatize all education, and it is happening at a terrible time for our state when we can least afford to pay.
Interestingly, many of these 375 kids are among the approximately 18,150 disabled and foster children who have had state programs chopped time and time again over the past four months by Republican budgets. That's 20 times the number of people would might use the proposed private school voucher scheme.
Which would help more disabled and foster kids? Stopping cuts to their services across the board, or offering them money that may amount to less than 20% of their tuition at private schools?
The most recent Republican budget proposal would actually eliminate all dental services for developmentally disabled Arizonans. Isn't this an emergency that these citizens are in danger of losing their teeth with which they eat?
Funding to help foster kids and their foster parents has also been slashed in recent months, forcing some of them to go back to group homes or into the streets. Is this also not a crisis worthy of a special session?
To really improve the lives and education of disabled or foster kids, we need to pass a humane and forward-looking budget which restores the cuts we have made to these programs and to public schools.