Monday, March 30, 2015

Republicans pushing voucher bills, jeopardizing public schools

Not only does the Republican’s new budget jeopardize our state’s economic future by cutting critical funding from K-12 public schools, they continue to push bills that will syphon additional money from public education.

Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) and School Tuition Organizations (STO) are two of the better-disguised methods Republican leaders use to divert money away from our public schools. Arizona’s public schools are still funded below pre-recession levels, and instead of investing in education Republican leaders have prioritized private school voucher programs above the public district schools that educate more than 80 percent of Arizona school children.

This session, Republican legislators have made several attempts to expand ESAs and STOs. Every one of the following bills was introduced by a legislator who voted for the budget:

ESA & STO bills
Estimated Cost 
  • HB 2152
  • HB 2174
  • SB 1088
  • SB 1332
  • SB 1434
  • $1.6 million
  • $230,000
  • $5,200 per student
  • $50,000
  • $160,000
These bills together would cost Arizona more than $3 million each year beginning in fiscal year 2017

Republican rhetoric about increasing classroom spending rings hollow after they have  systematically disinvested from schools - leaving teachers with outdated or no textbooks, schools in disrepair, and classroom sizes growing. Fully funding inflation would give schools an extra $246 per student that could be used for teacher salaries and other classroom spending, but our Republican leaders continue to fight against meeting that obligation.

State leaders have a constitutional and moral responsibility to support the public education system that serves a vast majority of Arizona’s students. But instead of fulfilling this responsibility, they turn away from it. This legislative session, thousands of Arizonans voiced their support for public education. If we keep making noise, eventually the Republicans will have to listen.



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