by David Safier
This to me is a very, very significant moment. One of the non-secret secrets in the legislature is that many Republicans want to dismantle public education. Not all, mind you, but many of them. Last week, a member of the Republican Senate Staff let the privatization cat out of the conservatives' bag. The non-secret is secret no longer.
A group of Tucson area parents, retirees and educators went to Phoenix last week to protest the budget cuts and talk with legislators. Among the people they spoke with was Javan Mesnard, the Senate Majority (read, Republican) Staff Policy Advisor. Here, according to members of the group, is how the encounter went. (Note: The portions in quotation marks are word-for-word quotes. Other parts are close paraphrases of what Mesnard said, but the participants can't be sure they are word for word.)
As the conversation grew more heated (and the original meeting dispersed), the Majority Staff member [Mesnard] became very open about the Senate leadership's priorities for education.
He told us succinctly that "We have the House. We have the Senate. We have the Governor's office." And – like it or not –ideologically the Majority Leadership wants to move away from public education towards charter and private schools because they perceive it to "be less expensive for the state."
When a TUSD parent asked him how we could reconcile this stance with the fact that private schools are not and cannot be held accountable for how they spend taxpayer money, the staffer replied (and this is a direct quote): "We. Don't. Care." He went on to say that as long as the move to private schools can reduce the state's financial obligation towards education and "produce results", then financial accountability was not their concern.
When he said, "We. Don't. Care," he chopped the air with his hand in time to the words to emphasize his point.
There, in a nutshell, is the anti-public education stance of the Republican leadership. I'm not sure who the person is to do it, but someone needs to ask members of the Republican legislature whether they agree with their Policy Advisor's statement. Likely candidates would be journalists with the clout to have their questions answered and the circulation to get the issue out. I'm thinking Daniel Scarpinato at the Star, Howard Fischer whose articles about the capitol are picked up by a number of Arizona papers, the very influential Arizona Capitol Reports and the new and excellent Arizona Guardian.
Who is going to pick this up and follow it through? I will be happy to give any of them the contact information of the people who wrote the words I quoted.