Here come the Kochs (and others) to ravage Arkansas public schools with vouchers
— Little Rock Police (@LRpolice) January 7, 2023
Here’s a warning from an Arkansas native public school advocate in Missouri profiled recently by Austin Bailey who’s sounding the alarm about an event in the coming battle for a dramatic expansion of private school vouchers in Arkansas.
The organizer of the school voucher promotion day at the Capitol is Americans for Prosperity. If you didn’t know, this is the political organization established by the Koch billions and it began playing in Arkansas with a significant investment in the Republican takeover of the state Senate some years ago and further solidification since of the Republican majority in the state.
Do they have money? Is a pig’s butt pork? They are ready to provide transportation, hotels and meals to all comers for this voucher pep rally, with entertainment by people on the payrolls of the education privatization junta.
I’d guess the hope is to fill the Capitol with well-scrubbed children in private school uniforms with hands out for public tax dollars. Not for “choice” mind you. They’ve already made that choice. They just want you and me to subsidize their private schools, which are subject to no state school standards, including any public reporting of standardized test scores. They’ll be happy to tell you how your public school has “failed,” but they will not tell you how their schools fare based on the same standards, particularly when comparing like student populations.
Oh, and the prospects are even worse than millions in handouts to unaccountable private religious schools. Note the speaker from Arizona’s legislature. The template for education “reform” there is to give your tax dollars to homeschoolers, too. No longer will trained, certified professionals be able to influence what’s taught to your children, be it in science, math, human biology or, especially, history. Any parent will do.
Arkansas constitutional standards of equity and adequacy WILL apply to whatever public schools remain. Private schools and homeschoolers? Nope. They get the money and none of the accountability. The money, by the way, will not be enough to cover the cost of the best private schools. Those will remain the preserve of the well-off and lucky scholarship recipients (football skills are helpful in the latter regard).
Rural areas, as Piper for Missouri has noted, will have few options for choice. Most vouchers will go to children already in private schools and in bigger cities (75 percent of those applying under the expanded voucher program in Arizona already are in private schools.)
A school superintendent trying to hold the line wrote me recently about the prospect of the Arizona plan coming to Arkansas:
Assuming the state is not providing any of the $6,500 vouchers for any private school students at the moment- and that this move is intended to cover all existing 26,573 private school students – the total new cost to the state appears to be something north of $172 million. [Actually there are a few thousand voucher students currently, in theory children with education plans and a few other limited categories}
Arkansas currently has over 22,000 home school students on record- that would require an additional expenditure of north of $142 million
Conservatively: funding both groups as outlined below would require an additional $314 million annually…..
And when private schools start taking state funding, it starts their clock ticking. Sooner or later they will be required to meet many if not all of the same insane federal/state requirements drowning public schools [I”m not so sure about this, absent a lawsuit requiring equal standards for recipients of tax money and the courts these days aren’t hopeful on that point.]
Moreover, when many of our poor folks decide the $6500 is attractive enough to go through the motions of pretending to home-school, how do you put a price on the negative impact that has on our state for generations to come?
I don’t think the votes exist to stop the Arkansas school tsunami. Between the Koch and Walton fortunes at work here (with aid from most of the rest of the Arkansas billionaire class, such as the Stephenses, Dillards and Hussmans), the financial battle is decidedly lopsided.
PS: Don’t be fooled by the use of “income tax credit” as a euphemism for school vouchers. The scheme, already in place on a limited basis in Arkansas, is this: Rich people may designate all of their income tax bill (such as it still exists as we progress toward the new governor’s goal of being a no-income-tax state) for distribution as school vouchers. These taxpayers thus can exempt themselves from having their money spread among all the needs of started government. Corporate income tax incentives such as this have powered Florida’s aggressive movement to vouchers (with no showing of meaningful educational gains in the process). Florida, you may have noticed, is supplying incoming Gov. Sanders with the state’s new education boss.
I’d like to direct my income tax payments to a nonprofit that provides transportation and other support for women seeking to obtain an abortion in a state where full women’s medical services remain legal. Or perhaps to pay for comprehensive sex education and free condoms and birth control pills for teens. Can I get a legislative sponsor? Or maybe for pre-K education for the needy.
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