Is It Really School’s Choice?

Linda Oyon

Representative Vince Leach, R-SaddleBrooke, recently replied to a constituent’s concern about SB1279, Empowerment Scholarships; expansion; phase-in, with:

“You are correct in assuming I am in favor of this bill.  Rather than a long, rambling explanation of my position, I simply refer you to the linked research paper: Please refer to page 27.  It reveals what I believe most people have missed in the school choice discussion.  And that is, while about ~85% of student attend public schools, given the choice, only ~36% would choose to attend public schools.  SB1279 is narrowly defined, it specifies that qualified student includes a child who meets the family income eligibility requirements for free or reduced price lunches under the National School Lunch and Child Nutrition Acts, rather than the specified educational scholarship. IT is for these reasons and many more that I support this bill.”Obviously when quoting statistics, one must pay attention to the source of the information. The research paper Leach refers to is from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. The Foundation was named after Milton Friedman and his wife Rose who extolled the virtues of a free market economic system with minimal intervention. An eventual advisor to President Ronald Reagan, Friedman was the first to float the idea of school vouchers which many, particularly in the South, viewed as a way to fight desegregation. He wrote in 1955 that he would choose forced nonsegregation over forced segregation and that “under [private schools] there can develop exclusively white schools, exclusively colored schools, and mixed schools.”

Inspired by Friedman, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) made a nationwide push (sending a model voucher bill to 16,000 state and federal officials) toward private school vouchers in 1981. Education historian Diane Ravitch writes that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) touted the voucher model legislation “to introduce normal market forces” and to “dismantle the control and power of teachers’ unions.” At a 2006 ALEC meeting, Friedman asked, “How do we get from where we are to where we want to be?” The ideal way he said “would be to abolish the public school system.” He recognized “you’re not gonna do that”, but that introducing a universal voucher system would be a more palatable way to achieve the same end result. Friedman went on to say that you have to change the way tax dollars are directed, instead of financing schools and buildings, the funding should follow the child.

ALEC has unfortunately enjoyed much success in pushing model voucher legislation to state lawmakers. It should be no surprise then that our schools are more segregated than at anytime since the mid 1960s. The Southern Education Foundation shows that private schools are whiter than the overall school-age population in the South and the West and that Black, Latino and Naïve American students are underrepresented. In fact, private schools are more likely to be virtually all white (90 percent or more) with 43 percent of the nation’s private school students attending these “white” schools versus 27 percent of public school students. These statistics, argues the Southern Education Foundation, show that more needs to be done to ensure equitable access to any schools that receive taxpayer monies. Basically, private schools should be required to admit anyone who applies, just as public schools do. If they don’t, they shouldn’t receive public funding.

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice however, maintains:

“School choice levels the playing field by helping those with lower incomes have access to the choices that others now have and even take for granted. It is not a scandal that those who are able to access better schools choose to do so; it is a scandal that because of the government school monopoly, only some are able to access better schools.”

The Southern Education Foundation counters that line of reasoning with:

 “The number of black, Latino and Native American students enrolled in private schools is far lower than the number of minority families that could afford it. The fact is that, over the years, African American families and non-white families have come to understand that these private schools are not schools that are open to them, especially in light of their traditional role and history related to desegregation of public schools.”

The Friedman Foundation does not see a problem with this of course (of course) and said:

“Just as parents should have the right to say to schools, ‘You’re not the right fit for my child, I’m going to find another school,’ schools should also have the right to say to parents, ‘We’re not the right fit for your child.’”

So, let me get this straight. Representative Leach supports the idea that private schools taking taxpayer dollars should be able to exclude children they don’t believe are a “right fit” for their school. Evidently, his definition of school choice is that schools should have the choice, not the students or their parents. This isn’t school choice; it is state endorsed discrimination.


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Linda Lyon retired as a Colonel (Thomas) from the U.S. Air Force in 2007 at Andrews AFB, Maryland where she served as the Mission Support Group Commander (city manager) for a 20,000 person community with 2,000 people under her command. After retirement from the Air Force, she managed a $28 million logistical service contract at the Department of Energy and served as Deputy Program Manager for the $30 million SBInet contract at L-3 Communications. Since moving to Tucson in 2008, she (and her wife Holly) created and ran four annual Wingspan charity golf tournaments bringing in almost $65,000, and she served as the organization’s Director for 14 months. She also served in key positions for five AZ legislative races. Linda is in her second term as a Governing Board member for the Oracle School District, was named Advocate of the Year for 2013 by the Arizona School Board Association and in 2018, served as the Association's President. She'll be the past president in 2019 and will also be serving as the Federal Legislative Chair for the Arizona PTA.


  1. Arizona is the poster child for school choice.

    NAEP, the gold standard of educational measurement, found:
    1. Arizona 8th grade African Americans placed number one in the nation in 2015 in math, up from 6th in 2011. Arizona Black students outscored Black students in Massachusetts and Connecticut and all 49 other states.
    2. Arizona 8th grade White students placed sixth in the nation in math up from 20th in 2011.
    3. Arizona 8th grade Hispanic students achieved the fifth highest math gains in the nation to place 11th in the nation, up from 35th in 2011.
    4. Arizona placed number one in the nation in combined reading and math gains from 4th grade 2011 to 8th grade 2015 (4th graders in 2011 were 8th graders in 2015).
    Arizona students were able to achieve these great math accomplishments with great academic gains. Blacks, Whites and Hispanics placed 1st, 1st and 5th in math academic gains from 2011 4th grade to 2015 8th grade.
    Arizona also did well in reading with Blacks, Whites and Hispanics ranking 14th, 7th and 29th in scores and 17th, 3rd and 14th in gains.
    While this 2015 NAEP test was first reported in October of 2015, Arizona’s demographic rankings have never been reported and a completely false presumption lingers on these pages that Arizona’s public education ranks 50th in the nation.

    By comparison, from 2011 to 2015, US NAEP math scores fell the first time ever. Also, reading scores did not improve. Parents grading their child’s school an “A” tumbled from the highest number in the Gallup poll’s 47 year history, 36%, to one point away from the lowest number, 24%. The Race to the Top, including the federal push for Common Core standards, backfired – badly.

    Competition was one of three policies in which Arizona was dramatically different. Arizona’s results suggest that competition works. Arizona has the greatest number of charter schools per capita with charter student counts increasing from 106,882 students in 2011 to 161,136 in 2015. This was an increase from 10.2% to 14.9% of all students. Arizona’s tuition tax credits for education further intensified that competition by providing over 32,000 partial scholarships by 2014. Also, by 2014 Empowerment Scholarship Accounts provided 80% scholarships to another 1,400 students.

    Public education in Arizona faces organized resistance. This resistance is:
    1. blocking expansion of the most powerful school choice element, Empowerment Scholarship Accounts;
    2. reducing the choices of parents of our most at-risk students, shutting down some of our most effective schools and burdening them with a glut of paperwork;
    3. forcing all schools to adopt specific forms of education, specific philosophies of education and specific school organization techniques instead of allowing innovation to flourish.

    Representative Leach is to be congratulated for looking out for the interests of our most at-risk students in the face of all this improper scorn.

    • I think what Falcon9 is trying to say is this:

      4 cups fresh or frozen tart cherries
      1 to 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
      4 tablespoons cornstarch
      1/8 tablespoon almond extract (optional)
      Your favorite pie crust or pie dough recipe for 2 crust pie
      1 1/2 tablespoons butter, to dot
      1 tablespoon granulated sugar, to sprinkle

      Place cherries in medium saucepan and place over heat. Cover. After the cherries lose considerable juice, which may take a few minutes, remove from heat. In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cornstarch together. Pour this mixture into the hot cherries and mix well. Add the almond extract, if desired, and mix. Return the mixture to the stove and cook over low heat until thickened, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and let cool. If the filling is too thick, add a little water, too thin, add a little more cornstarch.

      Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

      Use your favorite pie dough recipe. Prepare your crust. Divide in half. Roll out each piece large enough to fit into an 8 to 9-inch pan. Pour cooled cherry mixture into the crust. Dot with butter. Moisten edge of bottom crust. Place top crust on and flute the edge of the pie. Make a slit in the middle of the crust for steam to escape. Sprinkle with sugar.

      Bake for about 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool.


      • Sort of, but more like this…

        After spending decades defunding and sabotaging the education system and demonizing teachers we’re finally ready to turn the taxpayers money over to our Wall Street overlords.

        Thanks for the cherries, now you get on your best suit and go find yourself a job little Johnny.

  2. Vince Leach needs to go. His whole choice rationale is a load of baloney. He should just admit wants to kill public education and that he IS. In the pocket of Lesko and ALEC.

  3. Wait, what? Something the AZ GOTeaP is doing has it’s roots in racism?

    Up is down, black is white… my world doesn’t make sense anymore!

  4. What a bunch of BS propoganda language. Just as we shouldn’t use public funds for private roads, private parks, and private public safety, we should not be using public money for private education. This is nothing more than a movement to reel us back to the 19th century as to ensure only those deemed as the “elite” class get an education and an education that is carefully managed to teach what the powers that be want taught.

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