Families who bail on public school will get $7,000 per kid in GOP’s new scheme: “Every red state” urged to follow.
Last Friday, while the country reeled from the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade, Arizona made history of a different sort. Legislators in the Grand Canyon State passed a universal school voucher bill that, once signed by Gov. Doug Ducey, will become the most wide-reaching school privatization plan in the country.
In his January State of the State address, Ducey called on Arizona lawmakers to send him bills that would “expand school choice any way we can,” and the Republican-dominated legislature obliged, delivering last Friday’s bill, which will open a preexisting program for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) up to the entire state. In practice, the law will now give parents who opt out of public schools a debit card for roughly $7,000 per child that can be used to pay for private school tuition, but also for much more: for religious schools, homeschool expenses, tutoring, online classes, education supplies and fees associated with “microschools,” in which small groups of parents pool resources to hire teachers.
Moms for Liberty network chastised Arizona public school advocates who opposed the bill as “system advocates” rather than “education advocates.” From Rhode Island, anti-CRT activist Nicole Solas, a fellow with the right-wing Independent Women’s Forum, tweeted, “You know what happens when you abuse people? People leave you. Bye, public school.”
The Goldwater Institute, a libertarian think tank founded in honor of former senator and right-wing icon Barry Goldwater, celebrated the law it had done much to create as a “major victory for families wary of a one-size-fits-all approach to education,” plus a cost-saving measure to boot, since the total funding parents would receive through ESA vouchers is $4,000 less than Arizona’s already paltry per-pupil funding for public schools.
“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.”
“I think it’s a very serious mistake and the result will be that, within a decade, Arizona will have a very, very poorly educated adult population,” added Carol Corbett Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education. “Maybe that’s the game.”
It’s very easy to set up a one-room shop in a strip mall, give every kid a Chromebook and a plaid skirt, tell parents they’re on an accelerated curriculum and take that $7,000,” said Lewis. But it’s equally easy for those schools to “close up shop whenever they want,” as numerous low-quality voucher schools have been known to do, leaving students stranded partway through the school year. When that happens, said Beth Lewis, Director of SOS Arizona, “There’s no recourse to claw those funds back.”