The Arizona legislature is
trying to damage public education again by introducing irresponsible
legislation to create vouchers, all in the name of change or reform.  Download a summary of Arizona education voucher bills this session. (PDF)

In
recent years "change" in education has been defined, by conservative
proponents of vouchers, as providing a small percentage of parents an
opportunity to choose a private institution over a public school for their
child.  Parents are free to make choices for their family however; this
choice should never be made at the expense of Arizona’s taxpayers.   

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Any
"change" instituted by allowing vouchers would mean draining funding
from our public schools.  Vouchers increase public education costs by
requiring taxpayers to fund two school systems, one public and one private.
Statistics show that vouchers generally go to children who were never in public
schools, thus taxpayers are paying their tuition.

Vouchers
undermine accountability for public funds.  Private schools have almost
complete autonomy with regard to how they operate – who they teach, what they
teach, how they teach, how they measure student achievement, how they manage
their finances, and what they choose to disclose to parents and the
public. 

Those
public school students who use vouchers run into exclusionary admission
policies at parochial and private schools. Catholic schools turn away nearly
two out of three applicants. Exclusive private schools reject nine out of 10
applicants. 

A great
education should never be considered an option or "choice."
Every child has the fundamental right to a quality education.  Vouchers
will only increase the disparity by draining our already inadequate resources
from public school classrooms for a very small percentage of Arizona’s students.

If it is
change that Arizona
wants we’ve got some suggestions:

  • Reduce class sizes so that teachers have a manageable number of students in classrooms
  • Provide adequate funding for programs that support all students’ desire to achieve a high level of performance
  • Provide time for teaching professionals to collaborate with their colleagues when determining instructional curriculum
  • Create a Professional Standards Board that addresses professional development, teaching standards, and teacher assessment 
  • Establish a living wage for education support professionals who ensure that our students arrive at school safely, eat a healthy lunch, and learn in a clean and comfortable environment

For Arizona to achieve these
and many other necessary changes it will have to invest in public
education.  Arizona
will have to quit running from its reality.  We live, work, and learn in
the fastest growing state in the nation.  It is time to invest in our
future by investing in public education.

Conservatives
claim that those on the left and/or the "establishment" propose solutions
to address the need for improved student achievement that are meager and much
more expensive.  But, based on the numbers released by EdWeek earlier this
month Arizona
falls $2.7 billion behind the national average in K-12 education
spending.  In the end, if Arizona
chooses not to invest more in education it will harm the future economic status
of our state.

Usually
school choice proponents will say that charter schools and voucher programs are
too new to show the results they’ve promised.  How long is long
enough?  Arizona
is ranked first in the nation for "School Choice."  We’ve given
them their run and it’s not working.

Let’s
try investing adequate resources in public education for a while and see what
happens.  Let’s give Arizona’s
children the state-of-the-art education they deserve, no matter their economic
status or geographic location, two things that will never be accomplished by
offering private school vouchers or charter school alternatives.

Contact
your legislator and tell them that vouchers hurt public schools
.

John Wright is president of the Arizona Education Association and a
certified classroom teacher.  He can be reached by visiting www.arizonaea.org

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