GQP Legislators Ignore The Will Of The Voters, Approve ‘Universal’ Vouchers Bill At The Eleventh Hour

Update to GQP Legislators Ignore The Will Of The Voters. Buy A Comfortable Pair Of Shoes And Dust Off the Clip Boards For Yet Another Voucher Referendum Campaign.

Authoritarian Republicans do not care what the majority of voters want. They only care about what the MAGA/QAnon GQP crazy base wants in a GQP primary elections. They pass laws that only the GQP crazy base wants, and then they place new restrictions on your constitutional right in Arizona to citizens initiatives, referendum and recall in an effort to nullify that right for all practical purposes. “WE decide, and you shall obey!”

Howard Fischer reports, Legislature OKs vouchers for all students to use for private, parochial schools:

Rejecting claims of segregation and favoring the rich, Republican lawmakers late Friday gave final approval to the most comprehensive system of vouchers of taxpayer funds for private and parochial schools in the nation.

The 16-10 Senate vote came as proponents said parents want more “choice” for their children.

Note: The party-line 16 GQP votes to pass was all that was necessary. The four Democrats not voting on this bill would not have made a difference.

Howard Fischer then decides to include this unhinged diatribe from one of the most extremist GQP members of the Senate. I hope his intent was to show just how unhinged Sen. Vince Leach is, and not for the truth of the vitriol asserted.

Republican Sen. Vince Leach from SaddleBrooke said public schools in his district, which includes parts of Pima and Pinal counties, are “hemorrhaging kids.’’

“This is not over one year, this is not over a COVID year,’’ but over the past five years, he told colleagues.

“They’re leaving because parents are making a decision,’’ said Leach. He said schools are spending less time teaching basics and more time on things like Common Core standards “when 2 plus 2 equals anything but 4 and parents can’t help their kids with simple basic math problems.’’ On top of that, he said, are programs like structured English immersion and what’s been called “critical race theory.’

By contrast, Leach said, the charter schools in his district, public schools that are privately owned and operated, are all full.

“What does that tell you about the government schools?’’ he asked.

Answer: The GQP-controlled Arizona legislature has been unlawfully and unconstitutionally underfunding public education in Arizona since the 1990s, in defiance of Arizona Supreme Court orders and opinions. It is a systematic scheme to defund public education and to privatize public education for profit. Private schools can select the students they want, they do not have to take all students in their district. And there is little accountability and transparency for charter schools under Arizona law for student testing or financial accounting of the use of taxpayer dollars. And more than just a few state legislators have personally enriched themselves with public money by forming STOs under the system they created. It is all just one big grift of taxpayer dollars.

The solution that Republicans say HB 2853 offers is to allow each of the 1.1 million students in Arizona public schools to get a voucher they can use to attend a private or parochial school.

But Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, said there’s a reason for the loss of students.

“We created the crisis’’ by not properly funding public schools, he said. “And we are at fault for people wanting to look for other choices.’’ [This is not a bug, but a feature.]

What’s worse, he said, is that the people who have been able to afford the cost of private schools already have their kids there.

“Now we’ve just handed them a check for $7,000 for each one of their kids,’’ said Quezada, referring to the amount of each voucher.

Legislative budget staffers figure the cost of giving vouchers to parents of kids already in those private schools will cost the state about $125 million a year by the 2024-25 school year, meaning even less money for public schools.

Like I said, a systematic scheme to defund public education. E.J. Montini of the Arizona Republic adds, Arizona Republican lawmakers want you to pay private school tuitions for wealthy families:

Usually, politicians try to disguise, camouflage or outright conceal a scheme to make middle-class taxpayers hand over their hard-earned money to the filthy rich.

Not this time.

This time, the Republicans who control the Arizona Legislature don’t seem give a damn.

They’re going to take your money and let the wealthy use it to keep their kids in private schools, and they’re doing it in a way that is blatantly in … your … face.

Gotta give ‘em credit for chutzpah, but not decency. Or morality.

Four years ago Arizona voters by an overwhelming margin rejected a Republican plan to allow all of Arizona’s 1 million-plus public school students to get vouchers to attend private and parochial schools.

[If] it is passed by the Arizona Senate and is signed by Gov. Doug Ducey, it’s a done deal. The Senate is also controlled by Republicans and Ducey is … well … Ducey.

[T]he average voucher for the 11,000-plus students who currently receives Empowerment Scholarship Account money is about $6,000 to $7,000. Some students with special needs get a lot more, but that is understandable.

The thing is, an ESA grant isn’t going to cover the $21,000 a year you’d need to pay for All Saints’ Episcopal Day School. Or the $17,500 a year for Brophy College Preparatory. Or the $22,000-plus for high school at Rancho Solano. Or the cost of a lot of other private schools.

However, the people who already send their children to those schools would love to cut their costs using $6,000 of your cash.

It’s like a getting free trip to Europe on your dime. Or a really swell time at a high-end resort. Hey, Vegas anyone?!

[T]his is part of the Arizona GOP’s ongoing irrational war on public education. A bizarre Robin Hood-in-reverse attack on our schools:

Robbing from the poor to give to the rich.

Howard Fischer continues:

“We are perpetuating the discrimination, we are perpetuating the inequity, we are in fact codifying the segregation of our schools,’’ Quezada said.

This was actually the goal of the charter school movement when it first began in opposition to Brown v. Board of Education desegregation of the public schools. SeeWhy the racist history of the charter school movement is never discussed.

The vote came after [Authoritarian] Republicans used a procedural maneuver to block any attempt by Democrats to propose amendments, skipping the normally required floor debate and instead allowing only an up-or-down roll call.

That denied Sen. Christine Marsh, D-Phoenix, the opportunity to seek votes on some suggestions she said would make the plan to use public funds to send children to private schools a little more acceptable.

For example, she wanted students using those public funds to be tested annually to see if they are making academic progress.

Supporters of vouchers, however, say such public reporting is unnecessary.

Accountability? Pffft, who needs that?

Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, said the nature of providing resources to parents to make education choices necessarily makes them more involved in their child’s education as they choose a school.

“Remember: this is for whatever the parent thinks is best for their kid,’’ he said. “And, for the life of me, I still can’t fathom why anybody would oppose that.’’ [Says a legislator whose day job is teaching at charter schools, and collecting their paycheck.]

Marsh, who is a teacher, said it’s about more than testing. She said that given the use of taxpayer dollars there also should be requirements for minimum qualifications of teachers, fingerprinting of employees and volunteers who work directly with students as has to occur in public schools, and data on the income of families who are taking the vouchers.

“Do we have a vast majority who are truly needy, in poverty, earning whatever, $30,000 a year, and how many of them are there, versus how many families are accepting this money who are making $500,000 or $1 million a year or $2 million a year?’’ she asked. “We don’t have any way of knowing that.’’

Sen. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, said he does not believe there will be a “mass exodus’’ of kids from public schools, even with an offer of $7,000 vouchers.

“What I do believe will happen, however, is an opportunity will be given to students who may want to go to that private school, may want to attend a school that is out of their reach to do,’’ he said. “Frankly I think that’s something we should all be very encouraging of if they’re desirous to do so.’’

Marsh said that option for choice might be well and good if there were a level playing field. But she said that’s not the case.

“Public schools have to educate everyone,’’ Marsh said. “We educate every kid no matter what the cognitive ability or disability might be, no matter what the physical ability or disability might be.”

She pointed out that public schools can be required to educate certain students through the age of 22.

“That is not the case with private schools,’’ she said, which are free to decide who to take — and who to reject, a process some call cherry picking those who will be the easiest to teach and most academically advanced.

Boyer, however, said it is misleading to say the dollars go only for private and parochial schools. He said parents can also use the money to put their children in “micro schools’’ set up by parents, or for home schooling. [Even less accoutablity!]

The measure, already approved by the House, now goes to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who has signed every voucher expansion bill that has reached his desk since taking office in 2015.

Like I said earlier, buy a comfortable pair of walking shoes and dust off those clip boards. The citizens of Arizona once more have to tell our authoritarian GQP-controlled legislature that they cannot simply dictate to us.

Arizona Constitution, Article 4 Part 1 Section 1 – “The legislative authority of the state shall be vested in the legislature, consisting of a senate and a house of representatives, but the people reserve the power to propose laws and amendments to the constitution and to enact or reject such laws and amendments at the polls, independently of the legislature; and they also reserve, for use at their own option, the power to approve or reject at the polls any act, or item, section, or part of any act, of the legislature.”