Friday, April 21, 2017

Statewide Voucher Initiatives Has Been Voted Down Everywhere, Every Time

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 8:30 AM

There's no way Republicans can take away the initiative process using the initiative process. Voters won't go for that. And they can't push through school vouchers that way either; people always vote against vouchers. So this year, Republicans have used their legislative majority to thumb their noses at voters, taking away something they like and pushing through more of something they don't.

We've been there before. In 2013 Republicans tried to make it more difficult for voter-proposed initiatives to make it on the ballot. But after passing an anti-initiative law, they repealed it a year later because a move was afoot to let the people decide if they liked what the legislators had done. Republicans hurried to get rid of the law to save themselves from an embarrassing defeat, and to let them reenact anti-initiative legislation later piece by piece, which is what they've done this year.

Private school vouchers have never been on the ballot in Arizona. The Republican-controlled legislature voted in School Tuition Organizations in 1997. In 2011 it did the same for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. Then year by year it passed new bills to expand the two voucher systems.

Why didn't Republicans let voters have their say on STOs or ESAs? Because they know, voucher ballot measures have never passed anywhere—at least not for the past 30 years, which is as far back as I can find information.

Here's a list of statewide votes on vouchers, courtesy of Ballotpedia.
1990: Oregon Tuition Tax Credits. Defeated 68%-32%.
1993: California School Vouchers. Defeated 70%-30%.
1996: Washington State School Vouchers. Defeated 64%-36%.
1998: Colorado Tuition Tax Credits. Defeated 60%-40%.
2000: California School Vouchers. Defeated 71%-29%.
2007: Utah School Vouchers. Defeated 63%-38%.

When even conservative Utah votes down its voucher initiative by a 25 percent margin, that says something. It's been ten years, and no one's tried it since.

Here's what Arizonans think of vouchers. In 2016, an Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll asked the question, "Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents who choose a private school to attend at public expense?" The poll results look a lot like the state results above: 63 percent opposed vouchers, 28 percent supported them and 9 percent weren't sure. That's a 35 point spread. Even among Republicans, 55 percent of them said no to vouchers. A 2014 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll showed similar results nationally: 63-37 percent against vouchers.

The numbers might move a bit if the questions on the two polls were phrased in a more voucher-friendly way, but not by enough to change the overall result.

Only the 8 percent of Arizona's children who attend private schools or are home-schooled can take advantage of vouchers. It's awful hard to convince people raising the other 92 percent that their tax dollars should be used to pay for vouchers, no matter how hard the school privatizers try.

It'll be interesting to see if two major votes against the will of the people, on initiatives and vouchers, will make Arizonans more reluctant to vote for Republicans in 2018.

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