Wednesday, February 12, 2014

John Huppenthal, Arizona Superintendent Of Privatization

Posted By on Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 9:00 AM


Dan Gibson beat me to the punch with his post about Ed Supe John Huppenthal shilling for the Goldwater Institute. Huppenthal voiced a robocall telling parents how they can use taxpayer money to send their kids to private schools. In his post, Dan includes the video of Brahm Resnick’s news piece about the robocall and a Facebook post by Democratic candidate for Ed Supe David Garcia, so I won’t repeat them. Both are worth a look.

Here’s a bit of the back story on the robocall, and it’s only a bit. There’s lots of unpacking to do about the Arizona's Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA)— aka Educational Savings Accounts, aka (according to me) Vouchers on Steroids. I did some unpacking in an earlier post, and there’s plenty of material left for later. Now, though, I want to follow the money robocall.

A brief overview. The Goldwater Institute came up with the idea for ESAs as a second workaround (the first is our tuition tax credit law) to make vouchers legal in a state where the constitution prohibits the use of public money for religious instruction. (Did you know over 70% of Arizona’s private schools are religious?) The term of art for this kind of legislation is “backdoor vouchers.” In 2011, Arizona’s Republican-dominated legislature passed the ESAs into law for a limited number of students. In 2013, more students were added, and if a new bill passes this session, half of Arizona’s school aged children will be eligible for the taxpayer-funded private school vouchers. The conservative's ultimate goal is vouchers for all.

The Alliance for School Choice, a Washington, D.C., agent of the vast privatization/corporate complex, put together a script for a robocall to go out to Arizona parents whose children qualify for the ESAs. Huppenthal lent his voice to the robocall. Actually, he lent more than his voice. He lent the power and authority of his office to the message, making it sound like an official public service announcement. Huppenthal’s call sent interested parents to a website about ESAs created and funded by — get ready for it — the Goldwater Institute. And so the private-to-public-to-private-to-public-to-private cycle that begins and ends with the Goldwater folks comes full circle.

Huppenthal has established himself as the Arizona Superintendent of Education Privatization, a mantle he wears proudly. “I’m the superintendent of public instruction, not the superintendent of public schools,” he told Resnick in the news story. In Huppenthal’s view, private schools are public schools. They serve the public, don’t they? Making, I guess, Walmart a public department store and Tucson Country Club a public golf course. Taxpayer funded vouchers for private golf courses, anyone?

In a press release, Garcia responded to Huppenthal's robocall.

Dr. David Garcia, an Associate Professor at ASU and candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction declared, “This is outrageous. The head of public schools should be working to improve our public schools, not abandon them. If Mr. Huppenthal has neither the will nor the expertise needed to help our public schools, then it’s time he step aside and let someone qualified get to work.”

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