Friday, April 14, 2017

Arizona education's broken trust

The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) provides an update on Guv Doozey’s breaking trust with public education: Educators, Ducey at odds as public school issues reach critical stage

“At odds?” It seems to me that is a gross understatement.

Try “betrayal”.

Try “nuclear bomb.”

Christine Marsh, the 2016 Arizona Educational Foundation teacher of the year, said after the meeting the expansion would give more money to rich people and privatize education.

“This is a nuclear bomb that has been dropped on public education. It might not die this year or next year, but this is the beginning of the end,” she said.

A fractured relationship

Gov. Doug Ducey’s push for a universal school-voucher program has fractured his relationship with advocates and groups he needed in the past and will need in the future as he tries to secure his legacy on K–12 education.

Education groups lined up to support Ducey as he pushed last year to pass Proposition 123, a ballot measure that dips into the state trust fund to put more money into schools.

The measure passed by less than a percentage point. A more daunting effort to pass a ballot measure to renew a sales tax dedicated to public education looms on the horizon.

Ducey has signaled his interest in extending and retooling the tax, known as Proposition 301, and education advocates want to see it expanded.

But the goodwill established with Prop. 123 and which is necessary to extend Prop. 301 turned sour when Ducey signed a bill on April 6 expanding Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, vouchers that allow all kids to get public money to attend private or parochial schools.

Before the new law, the program was limited to select groups, such as disabled students, foster children, or kids in failing schools.

Public school advocates were angered, saying that the voucher push was not only a disappointment, but a betrayal of their trust and support.

Another fight looms on the horizon

Voters in 2000 approved Prop. 301, a 20-year, six-tenths of a cent sales tax for public education, and Ducey, lawmakers and education groups are already eyeing a voter-approved renewal in 2020 or before.

But Timothy Ogle, the director of the Arizona School Boards Association, said the voucher expansion hinders a potential extension of Prop. 301.

“He had wanted to be an education governor, and what he really did, essentially, was give a gubernatorial vote-of-no-confidence to 60,000 public school teachers in our state,” Ogle said.

It will be “very, very difficult” to find a consensus on the appropriate expansion of Prop. 301 now that it seems Ducey is OK with giving public money to private schools.

“Talking about renewing Prop. 301 in light of this is very problematic because you’re looking at the possibility of additional state general fund money going to private schools, and that’s just fundamentally wrong,” Ogle continued.

The voucher vultures feast at Ducey’s table

But what Duce signed off on seems (1) to be a model for what Trump wants for education in America, delivered by the voucher vixen, Betsy DeVos, and (2) to profit Il Duce politically.

To that last point, here is another report from the Arizona Capitol Times that National GOP figures cheer Ducey’s approval of universal school vouchers.

Expanding school vouchers boosted Gov. Doug Ducey’s profile in national Republican circles, with praise coming from major GOP figures and an editorial in The Wall Street Journal commending the state.

“Arizona is a leader in #edreform. Thanks to @dougducey and all the Arizona leaders working to advance the cause this session,” [JEB] Bush tweeted.

In the statement, Bush said it was a “historic moment for the state of Arizona, its families and most importantly the generations of students who will benefit from the power of finding the right educational option for their unique needs.”

I think that translates to “finding the right private school for their religious needs.” Oops. I forgot. The AZ Supreme Court already nullified the state constitution by reasoning that giving public money to parents who then give that money to private religious schools is OK. That money laundering is celebrated by those folks who like what Arizona is doing to its system of public education. But no matter. Il Duce is profiting politically from the voucher vultures led by the voucher vixen herself.

The Trump administration weighed in on the Arizona voucher expansion, too, through U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos, who was previously the chairwoman of American Federation for Children, a major force behind Arizona’s voucher expansion.

“A big win for students & parents in Arizona tonight with the passage of ed savings accts. I applaud Gov. @dougducey for putting kids first,” DeVos tweeted.

The American Federation for Children played heavily in Arizona legislative races last year, spending in several key races that could have cost voucher proponents their narrow, one-vote victories in both chambers. The group spent more than $250,000 in 2016, all told, in several close races, against candidates it perceived as anti-school choice.

And what can we look forward to?

"This is something that Jeb Bush thought was good in Florida,” Ducey said. “You saw some of the reforms that Governor Bush had done in Florida that we’ve done in Arizona. So we’re going to continue to innovate and experiment, provide reforms, choice for parents, with a concern for these kids. And we will have resources as well, but it won’t be just one or the other, it will be both.”

Translation: more vouchers for all.

Education guv challenged by education prof?

“Ducey made me do it” is the headline from the Yellow Sheet Report (subscription required but not possessed by your Scriber).

Democrat David Garcia made it clear at his Wednesday evening rally announcing his candidacy for governor that his campaign is basically all about education.

There is precedent for winning a race for governor because of a single hot issue. That would be Jan Brewer in 2010, immigration, and SB1070. The question posed by Garcia’s candidacy is whether education would work for him the same way. Can a single issue challenger successfully take on a sitting governor? Sure, in my post here today there is plenty of dirt to dump on Guv Doozey. But will 51% of the electorate in a red state agree?

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