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3 months ago

Arizona advances attack on public education with universal private school vouchers


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Over the past two years, public education has faced unprecedented attacks and hostility originating from rightwing ideologues set on turning classrooms into culture war battlefields. The most recent campaigns against public schools have focused on critical race theory, transgender rights, and Covid-19 precautions, but are better understood as part of a decades-long crusade to shift people and funding towards private schools.

The policy known as “school choice” is the idea of providing public money to parents to send their children to private schools. While the concept originated in early America, due to the lack of a widespread public school system, the modern school choice movement has its roots in the mid-twentieth century pushback against racial desegregation.

In 1954, the Supreme Court ordered the desegregation of public schools in Brown v. Board of Education. The aftermath across the country, but particularly in the South, was marked by white rage and defiance. We’re all familiar with the picture of 15-year-old African American girl Elizabeth Eckford being screamed at on her way to school in Little Rock, Arkansas, which is emblematic of the hostility to Brown. Lawmakers organized a legal opposition to desegregation, known as the Southern Manifesto, with some officials going as far as to shut down public schools altogether rather than integrate.

In a 1958 letter to Virginia school superintendents, Governor J Lindsay Almond Jr wrote: “I am solemnly and irrevocably committed to do everything within my power to defend and preserve public education for all of the children of the Commonwealth. Irrefutable evidence abundantly abounds that the mixing of the races in our public schools will isolate them from the support of our people, produce strife, bitterness, chaos and confusion to the utter destruction of any rational concept of a worthwhile public school system.”

Crucially, as part of this crusade to preserve segregation, lawmakers offered white parents tuition to send their children to private schools, largely unaffordable to Black families and free to racially discriminate against applicants. Virginia spearheaded the movement, but other states quickly followed, from Florida to Texas.

Not one to miss an opportunity to remake America on libertarian ideals, economist Milton Friedman began promoting “educational freedom” in 1955 as a codeword for privatizing education, fully aware that vouchers were being used to avoid school integration. Over the years, the right latched onto this neutral language to mask their intentions—whether that be white supremacy or the destruction of taxpayer-funded public schools.

Duke University Professor Nancy MacLean: Perhaps most tellingly, though, the ultimate purpose was not really to benefit parents and children, even the white ones who patronized the new segregation academies. For Friedman and the libertarians, school choice was and is a strategy to ultimately offload the burden of paying for education onto parents, thus harming the educational prospects of most youth. As we will see, Friedman himself hoped it would discourage low-income parents from having children in a form of economic social engineering reminiscent of eugenics. He predicted that once they had to pay the entire cost of schooling from their own earnings, they would make different reproductive decisions.

Today, we see the weaponization of language like “choice,” "rights," and "freedom" influencing how people think about public schools, inciting parents to demand control over the curriculum, the teachers, their language, library books, and student bathrooms.

Voucher programs siphon money away from public schools, which have already experienced deep budget cuts over the past 15 years. There is an argument to be made that children in poorly-performing public school districts deserve a better education, but the answer is not to fund private schools at the expense of public education. Instead, lawmakers should increase the funding and resources available to public schools, raise teacher pay, and—critically—invest in the community to reduce poverty and create opportunity.


Arizona became the first state in the nation last week to offer all students government funded vouchers to attend private or religious schools. The Republican-controlled legislature approved the bill, HB 2853, after the state’s voters overwhelmingly [rejected](,Expansion_of_Empowerment_Scholarship_Accounts_Referendum(2018) the funding of private school choice in a 65-35% referendum.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed HB 2853 into law on Thursday, calling it a “monumental moment” for Arizona students. “With this legislation, Arizona cements itself as the top state for school choice and as the first state in the nation to offer all families the option to choose the school setting that works best for them.” Previously, the state’s voucher program was limited to children with special needs, students at low-performing schools, military families, and residents of Native American reservations.

Opponents argue that the new law lacks financial and academic oversight, something state Democrats attempted to address in an amendment that Republicans shot down. “I’d like to know how many families that earn maybe a million dollars a year are getting voucher money versus how many families earning maybe 30 or 40,000 a year are getting voucher money,” state Sen. Christine Marsh (D) said. Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman likewise said the program “create[s] a vastly unequal system…with strict accountability for public schools and zero accountability for private vouchers.”

"The Republican universal voucher system is designed to kill public education," tweeted former Arizona House Rep. Diego Rodriguez. "OUR nation's greatness is built on free Public schools. The GOP goal is to recreate segregation, expand the opportunity gap, and destroy the foundation of our democracy."

West Virginia

A West Virginia judge struck down a law last week that would have funneled state money into a program that incentivized families to pull their children out of public schools.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice signed House Bill 2013 into law last year, allowing students leaving the public school system to use $4,600 for costs associated with private school or homeschooling. According to state estimates, the program was expected to cost over $23 million by the start of the 2022-2023 school year and could ramp up to at least $102 million by 2027 with the inclusion of students who already attend private schools.

Three parents, backed by the West Virginia Board of Education and Superintendent of Schools, brought a lawsuit against the state in January. “Parents are free to choose whatever type of education they want for their children,” the plaintiffs argue. “But the State’s founders made explicit in the Constitution that the State must—and may only—fund and support a system of public schools. Anything that exceeds or frustrates this mandate is unconstitutional.”

The Voucher Law also affirmatively incentivizes families of students currently enrolled in the public school system to leave that system, wreaking havoc on public school resourcing. Because state funding for public education is based in large part on student enrollment, the Voucher Law will result in a significant reduction in public school funding. This reduction in funding will occur without a reduction in fixed costs—libraries, administration, maintenance, and numerous other expenses that do not decrease with each individual student who takes a voucher. Moreover, because private schools generally cost more than the voucher amount, they will be used by more affluent families. And, because private schools are frequently unwilling and/or unable to serve students with disabilities, these students largely will not use the vouchers. As a result, the public schools will have fewer funds to educate a higher proportion of students with the most significant needs—including students from low-income families and students with disabilities—who are among the most expensive to educate.

Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Joanna Tabit agreed, issuing an injunction that prevents the voucher program from taking effect. House Bill 2013 violates the provision “that our state legislature has a duty to provide a thorough and efficient system of free schools for the children of West Virginia, and the legislature can take no action to frustrate that obligation," Tabit said.

The victory for voucher opponents may only be temporary, however. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey plans to appeal Tabit’s ruling to the state Supreme Court.

99% Upvoted
level 1

Worth mentioning: West Virginia ranks #45 in terms of education and Arizona #46.

This is not an accident, they have spent decades making sure the education provided to children there was as bad as could legally be.

level 2

Race to the bottom.

level 2

The largest pool of money they can’t touch in the state is school funding and teacher retirement. This is a work around to get that money. Who do you think run all these private schools?

level 2

Uneducated people are easier to manipulate, entertain and get to work in the worst jobs. Rupert Murdoch has a stranglehold on their news consumption, so they won't see the manipulations their reps and governors do to keep them, a huge swath of our population, doing their bidding for generations to come.

They're armed, act against their own best interests, and think god is on their side.

level 2

Arizona teacher pay is near the bottom and COL is in the middle.

level 2

I had a good friend leave Arizona because the education sucked a few years back.

Every year you get a school supplies list with basic things such as tissues and pencils for the class to use because they were so underfunded they couldn't even afford anything. The only way they could get by was by begging parents for donations. Huge class sizes too overall he said it just seemed like a terrible situation for kids I couldn't imagine having my kids attend Arizona schools at this point either. Oh yeah, they also had the strike a couple years back because teacher pay was so terrible. So you have chronically underfunded schools, legislators who are trying to defund education even further, and teachers that aren't paid or certified worth a darn. That's just an awful situation.

level 1
· 3 mo. ago · edited 3 mo. ago

I originally wrote this about the student loan crisis, but I think it still applies as part of this context. Right wing bullshit like "Originalists" twist and distort what the Constitution says to fit their narrative.

The purpose of Government is set forth in The U.S. Constitution: Preamble

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

These are the guidelines to decide should "We the People" do this?

Alexander Hamilton even wrote in Federalist Papers: 84 about the importance of the Preamble.

Here is a better recognition of popular rights, than volumes of those aphorisms which make the principal figure in several of our State bills of rights

Out of these purposes of government, Promote the General Welfare, Education for All is square in the sights of this point.

John Adams wrote a bit about the importance of education in a democracy.

the social science will never be much improved untill the People unanimously know and Consider themselvs as the fountain of Power and untill they Shall know how to manage it Wisely and honestly. reformation must begin with the Body of the People which can be done only, to affect, in their Educations. the Whole People must take upon themselvs the Education of the Whole People and must be willing to bear the expences of it. there should not be a district of one Mile Square without a school in it, not founded by a Charitable individual but maintained at the expence of the People themselvs they must be taught to reverence themselvs instead of adoreing their servants their Generals Admirals Bishops and Statesmen*

Here he makes clear the importance of the People being an integral part of the system. It gives us ownership of our own destiny together. He emphasizes the idea of the Whole People and Whole Education. This would include anything preschool and anything after high school, not necessarily just college, but also trade schools, etc.

The rest of the letter John Adams wrote to John Jeb is absolutely fantastic. He goes on to discuss why it's important to create a system that makes people like Martin Luther King jr, Susan B Anthony, Carl Sagan, and Mr Rogers, and Washington. Good leaders should not be a product of the time, but of the educational system and culture of the people. If a country doesn't make good leaders then when that leader is gone there's no one to replace them and that culture and movement dies with them.

Instead of Adoring a Washington, Mankind Should applaud the Nation which Educated him. If Thebes owes its Liberty and Glory to Epaminondas, She will loose both when he dies, and it would have been as well if She had never enjoyed a taste of either: but if the Knowledge the Principles the Virtues and Capacities of the Theban Nation produced an Epaminondas, her Liberties and Glory will remain when he is no more: and if an analogous system of Education is Established and Enjoyed by the Whole Nation, it will produce a succession of Epaminandas’s.

In another short work by John Adams, Thoughts on Government, YouTube Reading, he wrote about the importance of a liberal education for everyone, spared no expense.

Laws for the liberal education of youth, especially of the lower class of people, are so extremely wise and useful, that, to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant.

100 years ago we built in mass the first major wave of highschools in the United States.

In 1910 18% of 15- to 18-year-olds were enrolled in a high school; barely 9% of all American 18-year-olds graduated. By 1940, 73% of American youths were enrolled in high school and the median American youth had a high school diploma.

This was a dramatic shift in education and economic gain for the United States. Not all of our grandparents went to highschool until the public saw it necessary to build them.

The world is not getting less complicated. It just seems like the future is going to need more local experts than ever and a high school education that was good 100 years ago just isn't going to cut it on a global scale. People will need to change careers in the future and probably more than once. We will need continuing education as a society so that people can adapt and change with the coming times.

As long as a person puts in their work to learn and change themselves, our citizens shouldn't be overly burdened with expenses for attending a public education program.

It's not that students shouldn't pay anything, but it shouldn't be so much as to keep them from working and meaningfully participating in the economy. Not as indentured servants, but free citizens.

Edit: thank you and Keep_Track

level 2

This is so well stated. The modern global economy demands that our people have a better education to compete, so it seems like we should be improving education.

It's no longer adequate to just be barely literate. People all over the world are qualified to do minimally skilled labor. On one hand right-wingers fear competing with unskilled immigrant labor but on the other hand they refuse to educate themselves in order to have more valuable skills than the unskilled immigrant labor.

level 2

One of the best and informative comments I've ever read on this site

level 1

Death Ducey is literally burning every bridge on his way out. Fuck him. Just wait until he leaves AZ this year and heads to Washington to put this in place on a National level.

We have to vote these sick fucks out. And if the SCOTUS takes our votes away, the logical next step is a full on revolution. This country is so fucked.

level 2

We absolutely need a revolution in some form sooner than later. Otherwise we’re all sitting back watching the demise of our freedoms and the freedoms of our children on a daily basis. With this SCOTUS and these hard-right politicians scattered across the US that seem to keep multiplying, the US is speedrunning Gilead unhindered.

level 2

Doug Douche I say

level 1

Sometimes I don't understand why people don't use their own rhetoric back at them to hurt them.

"You want a big welfare check to send your kid to private school? Are you really telling me you want to be a welfare queen?!"

level 2

Just compare it to socialism...that should get a conservative's blood pressure on an upward swing.

level 1

We have the most extreme school voucher system in the world here in Sweden and it's a total catastrophe. Fight it at all costs or your education system will get even worse.

level 2

Apparently Sweden is ranked 9th in the world. What's the issue?

Continue this thread 
level 1

Your work is so important. Thank you

level 1

Republicans want your tax money designated to improve schools and society deposited into their bank accounts.

level 2

And insurance that dumb kids grow into dumb adults who will continue to do the same.

level 1

As an addition, most Red states save for two or three ALREADY take more in federal assistance than they pay. If they didn’t have double standards, they’d have none at all.

level 1

Religious schooling is essential: without it, the children of religious adherents might learn about matters outside their doctrine, and fall away from the faith. Proverbs 22:6.


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Keeping Track

Created May 21, 2017