February 15, 2024

Kerry Drake: Measure to fund early childhood education is backdoor attempt at privatizing schools

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Wyoming legislators continue to try pushing vouchers. Kerry Drake in the Wyoming News, warns against the idea. Even if part of it is used for early childhood education.

New Mexico used its windfall of tax revenue from high gas prices to make a historic $100 million investment in its public preschool program, expanding access by 40%.

But in Wyoming, lawmakers are using the far right’s fixation on school choice as a cover to privatize schools.

The compromise Sommers offered would use $40 million from the state’s general fund to support the program, split equally between K-12 and preschool. The Joint Education Committee reduced the preschool portion to only 30%.

While advocates tried to assure lawmakers that education savings accounts will stand when lawsuits are inevitably filed, an administrator with the Legislative Service Office said there’s no guarantee that will be the case.

“I don’t know that anyone can sit at this table and tell you definitively this is constitutional, or it’s not constitutional,” Tania Hytrek said. She said there hasn’t been a case like this before the Wyoming Supreme Court, nor has the U.S. Supreme Court taken into consideration Wyoming’s constitutional provisions and school finance litigation.

The Wyoming Education Association is already suing the state, alleging its funding of public education is inadequate and does not meet the state constitution’s mandate to provide a quality, equitable education for all students.

If the ESA bill is approved and signed into law, it will fundamentally diminish the quality of the state’s public school system.

This is no accident, and it’s happening throughout the nation. The far right has long tried to abolish the U.S. Department of Education and stoked anger at school boards that adopted mask and vaccine mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Education savings accounts and school voucher programs are promoted by extremists who claim public schools have failed America’s students. Classrooms are the battleground for right-wing culture wars over book bans, transgender athletes and our nation’s racial history.

Read the full op-ed here.

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