The Arizona Republic’s Linda Valdez warned last week, Grab a pitchfork, vouchers are coming:
It’s either mission creep or the rest of the camel entering the tent. I’m betting it’s the camel.
The Empowerment Scholarship Account program was created in 2011 ostensibly to help special-needs kids get into private schools that might better meet their needs.
But vouchers are a key part of the Republican vision of “school choice.” They’ve been expanding the program incrementally.
And getting away with it.
Even though the Arizona Constitution prohibits using public money to subsidize private schools, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld the program in 2014, saying the fact that parents control the money provides a sufficient buffer to make it legal.
For an explanation, see Arizona Courts disregard the Constitution, authorize the privatization of public education. The legal fiction employed by the court for an end-run around the Arizona Constitution was an abomination of the law. The case was wrongly decided and should be reversed to be consistent with the Arizona Constitution.
Supporters of vouchers insist they save money by removing students from public schools.
But K-12 schools still have facilities to maintain. Losing students – and funding — makes that harder.
Taxpayers buy vouchers that support those students in private schools while the neighborhood school down the street struggles to keep the AC going.
It only makes sense if the goal is to undermine the public education system.
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HB 2482 (.pdf) throws the voucher program wide open to every student in the state by 2020.
The voucher program is currently capped to limit the number of students who can participate. But the cap expires in 2019, making the drain on public education limitless.
Folks, it’s time to grab your pitchforks and head to the Capitol.
The potential for damage with this one is enormous.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t an angry mob with pitchforks at the Capitol on Monday, but there were opponents to testify against this attempt to privatize public education in Arizona through vouchers, and to render entire sections of the Arizona Constitution null and void.
Howard Fischer reports, House committee expands school voucher system:
State lawmakers took the first steps Monday to eventually allowing all 1.1 million children in public schools to get vouchers of tax dollars to attend private and parochial schools.
The House Ways and Means Committee agreed to allow what are called “empowerment scholarships” beginning next school year for any child attending kindergarten through fifth grade. These scholarships are roughly equivalent to what the state would provide in aid for a public school.
That would expand through eighth grade the year after that, and all grades in the 2019-2020 school year.
These vouchers originally were enacted for students with special needs. But lawmakers have slowly expanded it to include foster children, children of members of the military, children attending a school rated D or F by the Department of Education and, most recently, children living on Indian reservations.
Sydney Hay who lobbies for the American Federation for Children, said those limits, which have resulted in only about 2,400 youngsters getting vouchers, are too restrictive.
“There could be any number of reasons why parents need this program,” Hay said.
There is a restriction that requires a student to have attended a public school for one year.
But Mark Barnes of the Arizona School Administrators Association, said that’s still leaves the door open for state tax dollars to help pay for private schools for students whose parents would have sent them there anyway. He said simply having a child go to kindergarten meets that requirement.
Janice Palmer, lobbyist for the Arizona School Boards Association, warned lawmakers of the financial implications.
“How are we going to fund this?” she asked lawmakers. Palmer said as limited state dollars go out the door in the form of vouchers there will be pressure to reduce spending on public education and health.
But Michael Hunter who lobbies for the Goldwater Institute said those fears are unwarranted. He told lawmakers he expects that most children will continue to want to go to public schools, whether traditional district schools or charter schools.
The measure now goes to the full House.
Kill this bill! Call your state representatives and tell them you are opposed to this unconstitutional attempt to privatize public education in Arizona. If our lawless Tea-Publican legislature wants your support for the deeply flawed Prop. 123 in the May special election, then it must stop promoting these ideological attempts to privatize public education in Arizona. This just further demonstrates the lack of good faith and good will on the part of our lawless Tea-Publican legislature. Why would anyone trust them on Prop. 123?