School vouchers exposed… again

With just three weeks until the deadline to turn in signatures for Save Our Schools’ voucher expansion referendum, school vouchers are exploding on the news. Here’s why:

Huge rush on vouchers… by families already using private schools

About 6,500 Arizona families have flocked to apply for school tuition vouchers, hoping to get a piece of the Legislature’s recent $45 million taxpayer dollar giveaway.

The state Department of Education reports that three-quarters of these families are already sending their kids to private or religious schools.

“These are families who already committed to paying for their own private school option and now are using taxpayer money to offset their decisions,” says Marisol Garcia, president of the Arizona Education Association in a recent interview.

Columnist Laurie Roberts had even stronger words in the Arizona Republic yesterday: “These aren’t people who are fleeing the ‘failing’ public schools, as supporters would like you to believe. These aren’t poor and minority students who were ‘stuck’ in public schools, as we have been repeatedly told. These are largely people whose kids already are in private schools or being homeschooled.”

No accountability

Vouchers will offer families $7,000 per pupil to attend private and religious schools.

Outlets like the Tucson Daily Star recently highlighted criticism that there is no state oversight in the new voucher expansion law, meaning there is no way to make sure kids are actually learning anything with this money.

Laurie Roberts brought up another good point: “What do you want to bet we’ll soon see some fly-by-night schools opening in Arizona, to offer your kids a private school education for the low, low price of $7,000? There is, after all, no accountability built into the voucher law – no testing to demonstrate that they’re actually educating kids.”

No transparency with curriculum

In the public school system, voters elect school board members and schools hold hearings and create reports on student growth and where money is going. Private schools have no such requirements.

Furthermore, private schools aren’t required to make curriculum and books available to interested parents, either.

“Every taxpayer should be concerned. Thousands of families are given money and we will never know how it’s spent,” Marisol Garcia said.

Religious schools in the news for discrimination

Last week, a Florida Christian school made national news for banning LGBTQ+ students from its campus.

“We believe that God created mankind in His image: male (man) and female (woman), sexually different but with equal dignity,” the email sent by Grace Christian School Administrator Barry McKeen to school community in June reads, according to NBC News.

Arizona Christian schools that would benefit from the voucher program have similar policies.

We can give voters a say

Save Our Schools Arizona is circulating petitions to delay the voucher expansion until voters can weigh in. They need 118,823 valid signatures by Sept. 23 to do so.

It is realistic that we can shut down the expansion. Voters shut down the last major voucher expansion in 2017 by a margin of about 2-1.

Opportunities to take action

Save Our Schools Arizona has numerous events happening to give people an opportunity to make an impact against vouchers:

  • Signing events: SOSAZ is hosting tons of petition signing events across the state. Click above for a comprehensive list on their Facebook page.
  • Phone Banks: Every Tuesday until the election, SOSAZ is calling friendly voters statewide. Click above to register for their 6pm Zoom calls and get started!
  • Bring ‘em Back Bash Sept 1st-Sept 5th: Are you carrying petitions? SOSAZ needs them back ASAP! Return your petitions and get them notarized. Click above to find locations statewide.

Don’t delay! Get into action today!