July 10, 2024

Jef Rouner: Arizona Shows The Voucher Money Shuffle In Action

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Texas governor Greg Abbott really wants the state to join the voucher rush. Writing for Reform Austin, Jef Rouner uses the example of Arizona to show why Texas us better off without vouchers.

The primary complaint against school vouchers is that they result in the funneling of money from public schools to private ones. A deep look at what is happening in Arizona shows that result in action.

CNN compared two school systems in Scottsdale: the Dream City Christian School and the Paradise Valley Unified School District. The former is a wealthy private religious school associated with a megachurch that recently hosted former president and convicted felon Donald Trump for a rally. It is in the process of expanding, thanks in part to the millions of dollars flowing their way because of vouchers.

Meanwhile, Paradise Valley is losing resources exactly as fast as Dream City is gaining them. They had to shut down three schools last month after attendance fell. Arizona schools, like Texas, are funded based on attendance numbers. When students leave public school for private ones, the money goes with them.

For fans of public education, it’s cause for concern. Private schools are exempt from a host of state and federal regulations when it comes to access, discrimination, oversight, and approved curriculum. Many like Dream City openly boast about prohibiting discussions of LGBT issues or white supremacy, language that Texas politicians like Governor Greg Abbott have used in selling “school choice” to voters.

For those running the national movement to privatize education, Arizona is proof of concept. Since 2021, neatly a dozen states have passed universal voucher systems. Unlike the targeted programs of old designed to help low-income, disabled, or otherwise underserved communities get into specialized schools, these voucher systems can be used for anything, including homeschools. All of this is funded by state taxes.

What Arizona shows is how affluent and prestigious conservative Christian organizations can use education as a way to acquire taxpayer funds. Not only do those funds go into the coffers of places like Dream City that are openly courting Republican politicians, they represent huge savings for their conservative Christian communities. Most vouchers go to wealthy and upper middle class families who use the money more as a coupon for a luxury than funding for an education not otherwise available to them.

Read the full column here. 

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