The push for school vouchers by wealthy lobbies financed by people like the Kochs and Waltons is running into resistance in even deeply red states like Texas and Arkansas.
A huge Texas voucher bill (a so-called education scholarship account bill like that pending in Arkansas) is struggling in the Senate, with resistance led by many leading Republican lawmakers, particularly from rural districts. It apparently will be scaled back dramatically.
In Arkansas, a revived voucher bill that came out of the Senate after defeat of a House bill still hasn’t been called to a vote in the House because it currently lacks votes for passage. But Gov. Asa Hutchinson has thrown everything he has into passing the legislation, which is also getting heavy support from Walton-aligned forces. Lawmakers report threats of primary challenges to those who don’t vote for the voucher bill, backed by Rep. Jim Dotson from Bentonville, home of the Walton empire
You have to wonder why, apart from pleasing the Waltons, that Hutchinson is pushing so hard to divert another $3 million a year out of state revenue to private schools, be they accredited, accountable and transparent or not. The expectation is that state revenue may not hit the forecast this year. Public school adequacy funding will increase by a scant 1 percent, well short of what legislative research said was necessary to keep up with needs. State job cuts (meaning service cuts) will be required by the most recent version of the governor’s budget. New help hasn’t materialized for critical pre-K education. Promises for additional support of special education have proved empty. Promised general fund support of highway spending hasn’t materialized as planned. And the governor wants to let people earmark $3 million in tax payments for private schools, rather than for general state government? (And this is on top of expansion of an existing voucher program supposedly aimed at special needs children, but now expanded to include foster children regardless of needs at a cost of $800,000 a year.)
The last days will be ugly. The governor will attempt to peel off votes one by one with what play-prettys he has on offer. Who knows? Maybe son of GIF. Far more important and pressing needs will be held hostage to the imperative to send tax dollars to private schools.