by David Safier
First it was the Capitol Times. Now it's the Sierra Vista Herald. The two papers are surprised that Barbara McGuire changed her vote on SB1363 at the last minute to pass an expansion of Arizona's educational savings accounts (ESA), aka "Vouchers on steroids."
It's no surprise. McGuire is a pro-"education choice" Democrat who was endorsed and given independent expenditure campaign help by the very conservative, very pro-privatization PAC, Arizona Federation for Children (AFC). It wasn't a simple quid pro quo to get some of her legislation passed like the papers suggested; it was part of her long-standing commitment to the conservative privatization agenda. Democrats shouldn't be shocked by her vote either. It's time to see McGuire for what she is and look into finding a candidate for her seat who's less conservative on education issues.
People were surprised by McGuire's vote because they assume all Democrats are against vouchers by definition. But across the country, pro-voucher Democrats are being voted into state legislatures with considerable help from conservative money. It's a methodical, high priority part of the "education reform" agenda. Barbara McGuire is only one of a number of Arizona Democratic candidates who benefitted from work on her behalf by the AFC. Another is Rep. Mark Cardenas, who was endorsed by the AFC and is an Arizona board member of the faux-Democratic PAC, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER). Some losing Democrats had AFC support as well. I discussed the topic at more length in an earlier post, Barbara McGuire and Mark Cardenas: AZ's voucher-supporting Democratic legislators.
Among the endorsements McGuire has on her 2012 campaign website is one from AFC:
The American Federation for Children–the nation's voice for educational choice–today announced its endorsement of nearly 100 legislative candidates across the country, signaling the organization's strong commitment to supporting a bipartisan roster of candidates who stand up for children and who advocate for meaningful education reform, including educational choice.
In Arizona, the Federation is backing Rep. Barbara McGuire (D), a candidate for State Senate who has represented the state's 8(th) District in the House since 2007.
Here's what McGuire said about her vote to expand the education savings accounts in a recent AFC press release.
"This ESA expansion bill is a valuable tool to help Arizona families," added Democratic Sen. Barbara McGuire. "From the beginning, I recognized the importance of giving children options when it comes to learning. They all have different needs and learn differently. The options provided by SB 1363 will enable more Arizona children to succeed."
That's a full-throated endorsement of vouchers if I've ever heard one, and it's not a recent conversion on her part. Here's what McGuire said back in February as quoted in the Arizona Daily Independent.
“I believe in the freedom of choice and the opportunity for a parent to decide what is best for that child based on the knowledge that they have of their own child and their learning abilities,” said Democratic Sen. Barbara McGuire, when asked why she supports the ESA legislation.
Months before the June vote, McGuire proclaimed her belief in educational "freedom of choice" — a buzz term for privatization and vouchers — when she was asked why she supports ESA legislation. Expect her to be part of the education privatization agenda as long as she's in office.