Friday, April 21, 2017

Trouble in Republican City Over Voucher Expansion?

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 4:00 PM

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I can’t remember agreeing with Greg Miller—a Republican who runs a charter school and is ex-president of the Arizona Board of Education—before. But an op ed he wrote for the Capitol Times, GOP support of voucher expansion bill an insult to most students, is an exception to the rule. It begins,
As an advocate for education reform for the past 35 years, a co-founder of a very successful charter school, a lifelong Republican, and the most recent past president of the Arizona State Board of Education, I have never been more embarrassed, outraged, disappointed, and angry to call myself a Republican. How on earth do the Republicans in the state Legislature who voted for the Empowerment Scholarship Account (voucher) bill, or our governor, who signed it, look in the mirror and in good faith, not understand what they have just done.
Miller continues,
Public education has been the equalizer for 150 years of economic growth and assimilation of immigrants into the culture that we enjoy today. This is an insult to the hundreds of thousands of students who do not have the resources to pay the additional thousands of dollars for the tuition these private schools will be charging above the state subsidy, and without the opportunity of a quality education provided in their local schools where due process and common goals of expectation drive the continued development of economic expansion for everyone, not just a privileged few.
He ends by saying voters need to kick out the ESA expansion supporters in 2018.
All Republicans that share this view [against voucher expansion] use your vote in next summer’s Republican primary to replace anyone who supported this transfer of economic wealth from our public school system to the private schools of the wealthy.
I’ll take exception with Miller here and say we need to kick out the anti-education Republicans and replace them with some pro-education, pro-child Democrats, but hey, we can agree to disagree on that one.

It looks like the negative reaction to the ESA expansion by Miller and some other reliable Republican supporters caught pro-voucher Republicans by surprise. They’ve been patting themselves on the back for a job well done and basking in the praise they’ve received from privatizers around the country, but the reception haven’t been quite as cheery as they'd hoped on the home front. Witness this sudden change of plans. ESA expansion supporters were all ready to take a victory lap Thursday in the form of a free "Thank You to the Legislators" lunch at the Capitol paid for by the American Federation for Children—that’s U.S. Ed Head Betsy DeVos’s education privatization group, which pours money into the campaign coffers of right-thinking candidates in Arizona and around the country. At the last minute, speaker of the House J.D. Mesnard called off the celebration because he thought, according to an Associated Press article, “it was ill-timed and emotions are still running high at the Capitol.”

Seeing as how Republicans never worry about the feelings of Democrats, who they ignore whenever possible, those can’t be the folks Mesnard is worried about. He’s still got a budget to pass, and he doesn’t need to alienate dissenting Republicans any further by rubbing the ESA victory in their faces. Then there are the sizable number of Republican parents who send their kids to district and charter schools and agree with Democrats that more money for their schools, including raises for their children's overworked, underpaid teachers, is more important than helping send other people's kids to private schools.

Meanwhile, House Democrats aren’t letting Mesnard, Ducey, & Co. forget the vote either.
Democrats who opposed the voucher plan passed on April 6 continue to keep the issue in the forefront, reading letters from teachers nearly every day on the House floor. Earlier this week, Mesnard moved those floor speeches to the end of the day from the beginning because they were consuming hours of time. Thursday afternoon, he threatened to change House rules to limit vote explanations because Democrats were using that time to read the letters.
Much as they'd like to, the Republican leadership may not be able to put this genie back in the bottle. Even in reliably Republican Arizona, sentiments for public schools and against vouchers run high.

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