The school voucher fight takes center stage today.

Democratic legislators and public school champions held a news conference this morning to oppose legislation creating a new school voucher program in Arkansas — $3.5 million a year to pay for 500 lower-income students in Pulaski County to attend private schools. This is on top of pending proposals for $6 million more in school vouchers statewide sponsored by Republican legislators. Democrats also spoke in favorof  legislation allowing a return of local control of the Little Rock School District, in state hands for almost five years without discernible progress.

Republicans scheduled an answering news conference with a call for adoptiion of school voucher legislation. They have talking points well-honed by the Walton Family Foundation-financed school “choice” machines. Deserving children are “trapped” in failing schools and must be given a ticket out. Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and Sen. Mark Johnson (incidentially son of the famous segregationist politician Jim Johnson) were among the crowd on hand.

I fully expect Gov. Asa Hutchinson, once a foe of school vouchers, to defend the voucher program at a session with reporters this afternoon.

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This is simple.

The attack on public schools, particularly in Pulaski County, is based on the theory that they ALL are failures and anybody in them should be given money to go elsewhere — private school, charter school or home schooling. No scientific study supports that view. Even schools with wholly impoverished student bodies are helping many students, if not to the level of schools with far easier to reach populations of higher income kids. No scientific view upholds the view that any alternative must be better. Voucher programs have been failures in producing improved tests scores in Indiana, Louisiana and other states.

The voucher bills make no requirements on education supplied in return for tax money. They make no effort to measure how well students were doing before they leave a public school or after they enroll elsewhere. Indeed, in Florida, where vouchers are a billion dollar business, the legislature has made it impossible to gather that data. Wonder why.

The end game is the end of the American public school system as we know it. The Waltons have the money to play the long game and it is succeeding many places in selling the notion that people should be able to take their tax money and send it where they want.  If so, I’d like mine to go to Planned Parenthood.

The fight for vouchers rests on the argument that public schools as a whole have failed. If the politicians from Little Rock who participate in this argument think this is good argument for the city as a place to live and work they are not very wise.

A question yet to be answered: Will Mayor Frank Scott Jr. get behind the public schools in this fight? His city includes both the  Little Rock and Pulaski County School Districts and both will be damaged by a voucher porgram. Once instituted it will only grow.

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And, I’ll say it: No, parents are NOT always the best judges of what’s best for their children. See the plummeting test scores of kids who went to poor private schools in Louisiana.