Rachel Herzog of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that public school resistance continues to legislation to expand school vouchers in Arkansas.
Of course. Vouchers take children and state dollars out of public schools and shifts the money to private schools, some religious, that aren’t required to meet all the laws and regulations that apply to real public schools. The state Constitution requires equal and adequate education, which doesn’t mean parceling out state aid to sometimes demonstrably poor, unaccountable substitutes. And when the students go, fixed costs remain for the districts the students have left.
I’d written about this legislation earlier and outlined some of its many deficits. It includes a new feature that wasn’t present in earlier voucher bills — payments to certain school districts with high enrollments of poor children. The vouchers — which would allow rich people to pay their income tax into the voucher fund rather than into the state general fund for all state services — would provide almost 600 students with vouchers, more than double the number currently covered under a voucher program for children with individual education needs. The new vouchers would be open to all with middle-income or lower family incomes.
It would be the camel’s nose in the tent. It would be followed by a “scientific” survey by Walton shills that proclaim how much parents believe they made the right decision for their child. (As if …) And that survey would then be used to justify expanding the voucher program even further (on top of the thousands of students already drained from public schools by Walton initiatives in support of charter schools and “virtual” schools, many with lackluster records.)
The only good news is that vouchers haven’t yet become a fully accredited plank in the Republican Party platform. Some Republicans still look after their local school districts and think they do a good job. For example, from Herzog’s article:
Rep. Nelda Speaks, R-Mountain Home, said her concerns with the bill boil down to public school finances, and that she didn’t think setting up grants for public schools did enough to offset those concerns.
“I don’t think that the public schools are going to get all that much, and then, plus, you have no idea where this funding will go when you give it to the public school,” Speaks said
Money talks, as ever. The Walton education junta is all in for vouchers and they spread a lot of money around the legislature and elsewhere. Just this weekend, people received telephone polling larded with “push” questions on voucher talking points.
The poll sought out regular voters and first asked for opinions on how well the state is meeting educational needs. Then came the nudges: A question about whether they thought parents should be allowed to “customize their children’s education needs.” (Sure, just not at state expense.) Another asked if the respondent agreed that parents “should choose the education option that best fits their child’s needs.” (Sure, although some parents are not always well-situated to evaluate options.)
The fine hand of the Billionaire Boys Club was evident in this question particularly.
Beating up the “unions,” which are essentially nonexistent in Arkansas, is an oldie but goodie with the Arkansas plutocrats. The question doesn’t mention the primary decision-makers on public education in Arkansas — the legislature and the governor-appointed state Board of Education.
Instead of using the word “vouchers” or accurately describing the shell game with state money that would pay for them, the poll asked this question:
They should have asked: Do you support letting the Waltons/Hussmans/Stephens, etc. designate state spending of their income tax payments on vouchers for unaccountable private schools rather than going, as your money does, into the pot that supports schools, colleges, prisons, human services and all other state needs? How about letting me designate my tax dollars to pay for family planning services?
And then there was a question sure to identify maskless Republicans for future get-out-the-vote efforts:
Dollars or deaths? The governor long ago chose the former.
I would also have asked: Do you support vouchers to pay for scholarships for talented football players at private high school powerhouses?