Education Reform

Arizona: Puppets of Koch Brothers Scheme to Block Voucher Referendum

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Parents and educators in Arizona—joined together as Save Our Schools Arizona- responded to a universal voucher plan enacted by the legislature by collecting over 100,000 signatures on behalf of a state referendum to block the law. Voucher advocates, funded by the Koch brothers, went to court to try to derail the referendum. The state courts permitted the referendum to go forward.

Voucher advocates fear a referendum because vouchers have always been defeated at the polls.

Now Governor Doug Ducey and the legislature are laying the groundwork to stop the referendum. They plan to repeal the law that is under challenge, then re-enact it with a new name. That would force the parents and educators to start their fight all over again.

Here is a column about the dispute:

”You knew this was coming.

“From the moment a grassroots group of Arizona citizens had the nerve to challenge our leaders and freeze their efforts to divert more of our money to private schools, You. Knew. This. Was. Coming.

“Republicans at the state Capitol are quietly talking about a plan to repeal the universal voucher program they passed last year — the one 100,000 citizens signed petitions to block and put on the November ballot — and replacing it with a new universal voucher program.

“This, in order to block voters from having the final say in November on whether we want to send hundreds of millions of dollars more to private schools at a time when public schools are woefully underfunded.

”Talks quietly under way

”The Republic’s Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Rob O’Dell are reporting that talks are underway on how to best do an end run around our constitutional right to veto laws our leaders have imposed.

“Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, who brokered the deal that allowed universal vouchers to pass last year, is apparently spearheading the sneak attack on your constitutional right to referendum.

“According to the Republic report, Worsley is talking to Gov. Doug Ducey’s office, other legislators and “outside groups”, which is code for the dark-money interests who spent big bucks getting Ducey and Republican legislators elected.

“The ones who want to expand Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (read: vouchers) to every child in the state. Or at least, the ones who can afford to supplement an ESA with thousands of dollars more in order to cover private school tuition…

”Ducey, the GOP-controlled Legislature and their dark money handlers are furious that Save Our Schools Arizona managed to stop their universal voucher law by referring it to the ballot.

“By repealing last year’s law, Prop. 305 goes away. Then they simply pass a new version of the same thing, requiring citizens to start over again if they want citizens to have the final say.

“Which they do.

“Dawn Penich-Thacker, spokeswoman for Save Our Schools Arizona, vowed to mount a new referendum if our leaders go forward with this sneak attack. She said she’s been approached about the idea of repealing the voucher law and replacing it with a voucher plan that comes with a sweetener — 10 percent pay raises for public school teachers.”

The columnists says that the legislators acknowledge that the state can afford to raise teachers’ salaries.

“Here’s an alternative idea, Sen. Worsley, Gov Ducey: How about leaving the voucher law intact and allowing Arizona voters to exercise their constitutional right – their right – to decide whether they want a two-tier system of schools: public schools for the have-nots and private schools for the haves.

“And since we now know that there is money available, how about you raise teacher pay by 10 percent? Because you should.

“Of course, the dark money forces that increasing are buying our state’s elections won’t like it.”

So, the plan is to try to buy off the teachers in exchange for vouchers that will drain funding from their schools.

How cynical can you be?

 

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