For the second time in five years, public school advocates led by Save Our Schools Arizona are working non-stop to prevent an expansive school voucher measure from becoming law.
In 2018, Arizona voters, by a close to two to one margin, defeated the extreme Republican attempt to expand access to Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA: school vouchers.)
As previous Blog for Arizona posts noted, the Extreme Republicans, not caring for the will of the people, just doubled down and adopted a more expanded ESA program at the end of the State Legislative session with no academic requirements (like test results or minimum school grade) for the school or accountability/transparency mechanisms (like tracing where the scholarship money goes or equal admission practices.)
Public school advocates led by Save Our Schools Arizona wasted no time creating a petition drive in an attempt to stop the expanded voucher law from going into effect on September 24, 2022, and to instead halt the law and refer it to the voters in the 2024 elections.
This extreme group has the apparent support of the right-leaning Goldwater Institute and fringe American Federation for Children.
In an article written by fellow blog journalist Larry Bodine, this extreme group (which according to Accurso has about 300 members across the state) has utilized harassment and bullying techniques to prevent people from signing the Stop the Voucher expansion petitions.
Accurso herself appeared on convicted Steve Bannon’s show and spread a couple of lies.
Please see the video clip below.
The most egregious lie Accurso made is that the people decided they wanted this voucher expansion.
She obviously missed the 2018 vote that rejected the earlier attempt at voucher expansion.
She also said that the only money public schools would lose is the dollars the student would count for in attendance when he or she signs up for the private school.
Also, not true. Many public school advocates (including charter school ones) worry that funds will be drained from them to pay for voucher expansion in future years. With 85,000 students currently enrolled in private school or home school, Arizona stands to lose, if all the families of these 85,000 children decide to apply for the ESA Scholarship, up to $600 million overnight should this law go through – and for students who are not changing their schooling situation.
In the Bannon interview, Accurso said it was perfectly okay to use public taxpayer dollars to pay to attend a religious private school (Governor Ducey actually signed this voucher expansion at Phoenix Christian Prep) or any other private program (like the fringe pro-Trumpist-White Nationalist Turning Points schools although she did not mention them) of their choice.
Of course, Accurso made no mention, as Blog writers and others like Laurie Roberts, that the only families that this expansion will benefit, should the law go into effect, is the plutocratic super-rich families of Arizona where these scholarships will serve as another tax cut.
The outlandish statements and belligerent actions of Accurso and her Decline to Sign group have only served to motivate the Save Our Schools AZ movement to intensify its efforts.
Commenting to Blog for Arizona, Save Our Schools Leader Beth Lewis said that “their (Decline to Sign group) is actually bringing a lot of signers for us. The Public is overwhelmingly on our side as evidenced by the people coming out to sign.”
Ms. Lewis also said that “we are really happy with the progress our volunteers have made in gathering signatures” and called for more assistance to gather the required signatures by September 15 so the group can sort through the receipts before submitting them to the Secretary of State’s office on September 23, 2022.
The public dollar has no place going into the coffers of private schools that have no equitable admissions standards, no measurable academic outcomes to evaluate, no way to trace how the scholarship funds are spent, and no way to know if these appropriations will be used to indoctrinate children toward unacceptable fringe-racist views.
The rich do not another tax cut.
Voters need to reject this latest move by the Republicans to thwart the will of the people again at the ballot box and elect legislators that will adequately fund all traditional and charter public schools.