On the outset, funding to send your child to a private school sounds pretty good. I think, as parents, we often want our children to get the “best” – the best schooling, the best experience, the best clothes…etc. So, it’s no surprise that when Arizona offered vouchers for private schools, many families jumped at the chance.
Except…it’s not what you think.
There’s a catch to the new voucher system. In a glaring move of passive aggression the students are only eligible for a voucher IF they are in a school with a mask mandate or quarantine procedures. This allows students to move to a private school that is not regulated the same as public schools, and in a big fuck you to the federal government, the Governor is using Covid Relief Funds to pay for the voucher system. Woof.
School choice advocates often use the voucher system as a way of pretending that they care about education. They say “everyone deserves a good education, so let’s give some people some money and send them to private schools!”
That’s a fallacy though, because private schools and vouchers are not equitable at all. It’s a way of defunding the public school system, by taking money reserved for public schools and pulling children out of them. Even now, public schools in wealthy areas receive better funding than those in lower income areas. Why? Schools are funded by property taxes. They are also funded based on the number of booties in seats.
School is not equitable (though it should be) and vouchers aren’t going to fix the problem.
On top of the fact that Arizona is making policy that directly impacts the health of the community, not to mention children, it’s likely that those students who take advantage of this particular voucher will be forced back to their normal public school when the funds run out. So, students are uprooted from their education not once but twice. They may miss important learning blocks that they need to carry with them from grade-to-grade, and for what? So that the Governor of Arizona can point his middle finger at the Federal Government.
So what can you do?
First, anytime there’s a voucher program on the ballot you should vote against it. Vouchers do not create equitable education, and they only assist a small minority of students. Also, the rules that apply to public education don’t apply to private education – so who knows where your money is going.
Second, anytime you can vote to expand funding to public schools – do it. Maybe you don’t have kids, maybe you don’t want kids. That’s fine, but look, whether you like it or not kids grow up and become your neighbors, voters, and people in the community. If you want an educated and well rounded community, invest in public schools.
Third, and here we are again, local voting is important. School boards, Mayors, City Councils, Governors, they all determine your child’s education and thus the fate of your city. Vote like the town depends on it.
Because it quite literally does.