Cross posted from the Arizona Eagletarian
Well, our state’s de facto chief private school promoter, John Huppenthal’s been at it again. Much more than he initially let on last month. But now he’s upset with 12News reporter Brahm Resnik.
Huppenthal, aided and abetted by the Greedwater Institute (right-wing advocacy cabal) and the Republican legislature, recorded a 30-second robocall message that was reportedly broadcast today to 15,000 households promoting Hupp’s effort to further undermine public schools.
Apparently, the robocall campaign is part of a $250,000 media campaign promoting “Empowerment Scholarship Accounts,” state money that pays for private schools and supplies, according to Resnik. He also reports that the legislature is poised to expand those ESAs to include more than half of all students in Arizona. “Giving private schools potentially a new way to siphon off a lot of students from public schools.”
As revealed by emails exchanged between Huppenthal, his staff and benefactors, the target population was more than three times the number of households originally reported. ProgressNow Arizona executive director Robbie Sherwood obtained the emails as a result of a public records request.
On January 30, Huppenthal’s chief of staff, Merle Bianchi emailed Arizona Dept. of Education (the state agency Huppenthal oversees) public information officer Jennifer Liewer indicating “John has agreed to make this call to 48,000 households.”
Liewer, former chief PIO for the Arizona Supreme Court, initially raised concerns over the legality of the script. ADE lobbyist Aiden Fleming warned against endorsing Goldwater’s “askamom.org.”
Anyway, instead of standing tall in furthering his mission of undermining Arizona’s public schools, Huppenthal became quite testy yesterday with Resnik, saying that “all of the reporting coming out of Channel 12 is completely an illusion.”
[link above is to video clip of Resnik’s report]
That Huppenthal fantasy, of course, matches the denial expressed by Cathi Herrod and her legislative supporters regarding the SB1062 firestorm. The problem with that, according to Herrod and several GOP state lawmakers wasn’t a problem with the bill but in that their opponents lied about what was in the bill. Herrod’s story, however, has been shown repeatedly and convincingly to be, in itself, a complete fabrication.
Same with Huppenthal. But WHY, John would you not BE PROUD of what you’re doing?
So far only about 600 students use the “empowerment scholarships.” But if HB2291 is approved with a proposed amendment from the Goldwater Institute, all children in Title I schools would be eligible for private school vouchers. That would extend the voucher program eligibility to 73 percent of Arizona’s public schools and nearly 900,000 students. With marketing assistance from Huppenthal and the Alliance, the program is likely to grow exponentially, sending thousands of students and millions of taxpayer dollars to private and parochial schools with no accountability.
Roberts wonders aloud why our GOP-controlled legislature hates Arizona’s public schools.
Operation Take Down, as I’ll call it, began a few years ago, as the Republican-controlled Legislature began sucking money out of the public schools. Total spending on K-12 education was $412 less per student last year than it was in 2009, according to a recent report by the Arizona auditor general. And that’s in a state where our $7,500 in per-student operational spending already trails the national average by about 42 percent – or more than $3,000 per student.
Meanwhile, the Legislature in 2011 began a narrowly focused voucher program, aimed at allowing children with serious physical and mental disabilities to attend private schools using public funds. It was a decent thing to do for a small group of disabled children whose needs the public schools couldn’t or wouldn’t meet.
Then the program was expanded to the children of active-duty military. And to foster-care children and those adopted out of the foster-care system. And to children attending public schools that received a D or an F rating from the state – because, heaven forbid we actually fix our failing schools.
Then came certain kindergarteners.
Now this year come a series of bills that would dramatically expand the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program, as it’s called — from the current 761 students to 28,000 within five years, and eventually to every child in public or charter schools.
Roberts’ pegged it squarely when she called it Operation Take Down. Taking major amounts of funding away from public schools is nothing new for Huppenthal. Nor is being cornered by a pesky, journalistic inquisitor. Back in 2010, he gave this interview to a high school student, who flummoxed him with questions about his vote in favor of a bill (that passed) dramatically cutting funding for CTE (career and technical education) programs.
Intention or no intention, there can be no question that Huppenthal and his benefactors’ plans, if implemented will have severe adverse ramifications on both the economic viability and quality of life in Arizona.
But then again, John Huppenthal, if you believe so much in what you’re doing, why be upset with Resnik?
WEAR IT PROUDLY — every day from now until election day in November.
Special thanks to Lisa Hoffman who provided research that contributed to this post.