The evil GOP bastards at the”Kochtopus” Death Star, the Goldwater Institute, are already plotting the next step in their 50 year strategy to fully privatize public education in Arizona (in violation of the Arizona Constitution). Howard Fischer reports, Lift on voucher cap in the works:
A key architect of the universal voucher plan approved Thursday is already looking to undermine the key provision of the compromise that secured the votes for the program’s expansion.
In a message to financial supporters late Thursday, Darcy Olsen, chief executive officer of the Goldwater Institute, said those who want to give more state money so parents can send their children to private and parochial schools should not be dismayed about the cap of about 30,000 that is in the final version of the bill.
“We will get it lifted,” Olsen said.
And Olsen didn’t even wait until Gov. Doug Ducey had penned his approval hours later to the delicately crafted deal, a deal in which the Goldwater Institute participated — and the deal that managed to bring on the bare minimum 31 votes in the House and 16 in the Senate to secure approval.
The comments angered Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, who brought all the interests together and corralled the votes.
“I just think it’s deplorable that she would put that in print,” he told Capitol Media Services. And Worsley said what’s worse is that Olsen was involved in the talks.
“She was negotiating in bad faith with us if that was her intention,” he said.
Dude, it’s the Goldwater Institute. “Goof faith” is not in the lexicon of their vocabulary. Were you born yesterday?
An aide said Olsen was not available to comment. In her place, Goldwater President Victor Riches told Capitol Media Services that her message, meant for long-time donors, should not be taken as a vow to start working to remove the caps — at least not yet.
“It was probably not very artfully worded, I would say,” Riches said. (wink, wink.)
But Riches, who acknowledged Goldwater’s role in the final deal, would not commit to waiting that full six years before trying to get the cap removed.
“We’re not interested in making any changes right now,” he said. But Riches said he could foresee a scenario where waiting makes no sense.
“Let’s just say the present cap is hit and there is 20,000 people on the equivalent of a wait list,” he said. “Would we want to reevaluate that? Yes.”
Worsley said that is directly contrary to the whole purpose of cap, which would be about 30,000 by the 2022-2023 school year. He said the next six years are designed to be an “experiment” to see if it’s appropriate to keep the cap, increase it, or get rid of it entirely.
He said the six-year period gives the Goldwater Institute and other supporters of vouchers “plenty of freedom” to make the case for further expansion.
And Worsley had a message for the institute and anyone else who intends to try to make changes before then.
“That will not happen while I’m in the legislature,” he said.
But here’s the thing: With term limits, Worsley can serve in the Senate only through 2020. [And the “Kochtopus” dark money network in the state of Maricopa can fund a primary challenger, or run a smear campaign against him next year. Why wait?]
Someone who could be here longer is Ducey. If reelected next year, his term would run through 2022.
Only thing is, the governor, a self-professed supporter of “school choice,” will not commit to keeping the voucher limits in place through the end of his time in office.
“We have to see how the program works,” press aide Daniel Scarpinato said when asked if Ducey would veto any changes before then. Scarpinato said it’s premature to even be talking about changes as the law has not even taken effect.
What makes Ducey’s views so significant is that the ability of Olsen to pull apart the deal and scrap the caps could be dependent on whether the governor goes along.
The Goldwater Institute has links with the governor.
Doug Ducey, the ice cream man hired by Koch Industries to manage their southwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Arizona, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the “Kochtopus,” as is the Goldwater Institute, which is vertically and horizontally integrated into the Arizona legislature and state government. The “Kochtopus” owns this state, and don’t you forget it.
Victor Riches had previously been Ducey’s deputy chief of staff. Christina Corieri, Ducey’s education policy, came from the Goldwater Institute.
Ducey also tapped prior Clint Bolick, Goldwater’s vice president for litigation, as his first pick for the Arizona Supreme Court.
And that doesn’t count former Goldwater staffers elsewhere in the Republican power structure, including Michael Hunter as chief of staff to House Speaker J.D. Mesnard.
Those caps Worsley wants protected are the centerpiece of the deal.
* * *
Those caps, however, had been set to self-destruct after 2019.
Along comes Sen. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, who sought to remove all those limits on who was eligible. And once those caps were gone, that would have entitled all 1.1 million students in Arizona schools to get a state-funded voucher, formally known as an “empowerment scholarship account,” to attend a private or parochial school.
That proved unpalatable to a majority of lawmakers.
The new law Worsley shepherded through the legislature on Thursday phases out all of the restrictions between now and 2020 on who can seek a voucher. On paper, that would make all public school students eligible for a voucher. But under the deal, the caps would remain, though they would increase slowly to about 30,000 by the 2022-2023 school year.
It wasn’t just Worsley’s vote that the hard cap through 2022 helped secure.
For example, in a prepared statement after the vote, Rep. Maria Syms, R-Paradise Valley, said she was convinced to go along because the bill “phases in expansion and puts a firm cap on the current program’s unlimited expansion.”
The caps are not the only changes that Worsley made to Lesko’s original universal voucher plan to line up the necessary votes.
Another key change deals with the cost of the vouchers themselves, those debit cards given to parents of eligible children to spend on everything from tuition and fees at private schools to tutors and even supplies for those who educate their children at home.
Under current law, a student without special needs coming from a public school would be eligible for a voucher of about $5,600 a year. That actually is more than the state now provides in aid to the district had the student remained in school.
The final version of the bill decreases that basic voucher to $4,400.
Worsley said he tried to get a “means test” which would have narrowed the eligibility to the most needy but found he could not get support for that. What he did manage to secure is a provision that provides a 10 percent boost in the voucher for students coming from homes where family income is less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level, a figure that currently equals $60,750 for a family of four.
There also is, for the first time ever, some public accountability for whether those vouchers actually result in better educational outcome.
Any student in grades 3 through 12 is required to annually take either a nationally recognized or state-approved assessment that assesses reading and math. While individual results are reported to the parents, any school that accepts at least 50 students who are using vouchers to pay for tuition must also post the aggregate test scores of all students, voucher and not, in that each grade.
So the only “accountability” is on student testing. You will note that there is no financial accountability requirements for private and parochial schools receiving public tax dollars, or student tuition organizations. We can’t have that. “Free enterprise” means that private businesses are free to rip off the government (and taxpayers) to enrich themselves. Just ask senate president Steve Yarbrough how he has enriched himself by enacting legislation to privatize public education. These guys are shameless.
UPDATE: “Lawmakers expanded the Empowerment Scholarship program, but it will be difficult, if not impossible, to track the increased spending and any improvement in student performance.” Why Arizona officials don’t know which private schools benefit from expanding voucher program.
Laurie Roberts of The Republic writes Already talk of reneging on voucher deal?:
Well, that didn’t take long.
The ink wasn’t even dry on the state’s new voucher law – the one that had to be capped in order to get enough votes to pass – when talk began about eliminating the cap.
Sen. Bob Worsley, the all-important 16th Senate vote, said capping the program was key to getting his support for Senate Bill 1431. The bill, as passed, would allow about 30,000 kids to get vouchers by 2022.
Within minutes of Gov. Doug Ducey signing the bill Thursday evening, Darcy Olsen, CEO of the Goldwater Institute, was reassuring supporters that the cap won’t stand.
“Fifty years in the making, and tonight we closed the deal!” she wrote, in an email to supporters. “Universal education savings accounts. There is a cap at 5,000 new kids per year; we will get it lifted. Thank you for the years of support that have made this victory possible.”
She probably will. The Goldwater Institute holds big sway with Ducey and Republican legislators, most of whom were never sold on the cap in the first place.
Of course, everybody – other than Worsley and the moderate Republicans who flipped to support the bill (Regina Cobb of Kingman, Maria Syms of Paradise Valley and Drew John of Safford) – knew that cap was there only to get their votes.
But how brazen to brag about how it’s coming off on the very night the foursome sold out the public schools?
Just like all those educators who sold out public education last year by going along with Governor Ducey’s Prop. 123. Educators were warned never to trust these people, that they never negotiate in good faith, and that they would screw you again the first chance they got. They just did, and they are going to screw you again.
There is no more negotiating with Tea-Publicans or hoping for a mythical moderate Republican to save you. They will lie to your face and stab you in the back. Educators cannot endorse or support Tea-Publican candidates for office in the misguided hope that they will somehow support you any longer. What more evidence do you need that this desperate hope does not work?
If Arizonans want to disempower the “Kochtopus,” voters have to vote Tea-Publicans out of office en masse on the ballot. Defeating “Koch-bot” Gov. Doug Ducey is your primary objective.
This will not be easy to accomplish because of the unlimited supply of dark money from the “Kochtopus” network in the state of Maricopa. They will do whatever it takes to protect their investment and to maintain their stranglehold on the state of Arizona.
But ending the corruption in Arizona government has to begin somewhere.