Stop the Expansion of Huppenthal's Private School Vouchers
Arizona’s voucher program, the so-called “Empowerment Scholarship Accounts” (ESA) is looking to be the state’s next boondoggle program like the alt-fuels fiasco from 2000 that cost tax payers in excess of $200 million.
- Arizona Superintendent or Public Instruction John Huppenthal promotes the ESA voucher program through a robo-call telling parents to pull their children out of public school and enroll them in private school for “free."
- Representative Debbie Lesko, Arizona's ALEC Chair, fast tracks voucher legislation (HB2291) through the Arizona Legislature to expand the ESA voucher program to nearly all of the public school student population. A number of voucher bills are working through the legislature and seek to expand the eligible pool of students by including the following:
- Title 1 students, which make up 73% of the population, nearly 900,000 students (HB2291 & SB1236)
- Siblings of current ESA voucher recipients (HB2139)
- Children of active-duty military members (HB2150)
- Senator Kimberly Yee pushes legislation (HB2139) that will increase the funding amounts for ESA vouchers and cost the taxpayers more money, funding the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) admits they are already doing despite what current law says. It’s estimated that these vouchers are costing in excess of $1 million. If the ESA voucher program is expanded, then this program would become a huge drain on the general fund.
Stand up for Arizona public schools and students and take action! AEA has created this toolkit to 1) provide you information on how anti-public education lobbyists and legislators are working to dismantle public education in Arizona; 2) provide you an easy way to contact your legislators to stop the expansion of Huppenthal's vouchers; and 3) give you the tools to spread the word and get others engaged. After AEA got HB2291 held in the House for the third time, a pro-voucher lobbyist was overheard saying they are "waiting for the heat to die down" before they push the bill again. Our challenge is to turn up the heat!
- Email your legislators to stop the expansion of Huppenthal's vouchers.
- Ask a friend to contact legislators.
- Call your legislators to stop the expansion of Huppenthal's vouchers.
- Send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. If your letter gets printed, let us know.
- Sign up for AEA's Legislative Update or send the link to others.
- Join your voice with the thousands of others who are Keeping the Promise of Quality Public Education for every child in Arizona and join the AEA today or ask a colleague to join.
Using Social Networks to Spread the Word
- Tweet this action.
- Like AEA's Facebook Page to get updates and share your thoughts.
- Post status updates using images and memes with a link to our action alert to make the message go viral:
- Use hashtags #novouchers #supportAZschools #standuptoALEC
- Use meme images . Make your own meme image. Share with us.
- Make a video on YouTube. Share with us.
Background on Arizona Voucher Program
The Arizona Legislature created ESAs as a back-door voucher program in 2011 as a workaround after their voucher law was declared unconstitutional as a result of a lawsuit won by AEA and a coalition of education groups. Currently, ESA vouchers divert taxpayer funds from public schools to private schools. Eligible ESA voucher recipients annually receive an amount equivalent to 90% of the base support level. If the student is dropping out of a charter school, the student receives the additional charter school assistance amount added to his or her voucher account. These vouchers drain public funding from our schools at a time when they are still reeling from the billions of dollars in state cuts to education since 2008. It is unconscionable for Arizona’s leaders to starve our public schools of funding, raise expectations, call them failing, and then suck more funding out of our schools to give to the for-profit interests that fund the smear campaigns tearing down our public schools.
Arizona Schools Chief Gives Up on Public Education
With the recent news of the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction’s robo-call promoting private school education for public school students, it is clear that Superintendent John Huppenthal has decided that the goal of Arizona’s public education system is for profit, rather than the education of Arizona’s 1 million students.
“It is appalling that the Superintendent of Public Instruction would ask parents in this state to remove their children from Arizona’s public schools and enroll them in private schools,” says AEA President Andrew F. Morrill. “He has a responsibility to support our state’s system of public education, which includes our students, our teachers, our education support staff, and our schools to ensure that they have the resources they need in order to succeed.” Read AEA's press release.
ESA Vouchers Cost Arizona Taxpayers More Money
Legislation passed last year added charter school additional assistance money to the voucher amount if the student came from a charter school, not a traditional public school. According to ADE, which administers the state’s voucher program, and a 12News report, ADE has been illegally funding vouchers with the additional charter school assistance amount for all voucher recipients, former public school students included. This means the voucher program is costing taxpayers an estimated $1 million more than it would to send students to public school, with no accountability.
In addition, the ADE is running legislation that would make their overpayment actions legal. SB1237, sponsored by Senator Kim Yee, will increase the amount of ESA vouchers to include the charter school additional assistance weight as well as 90 % of the base support level funding the student would have otherwise received if they had attended a public school district. This is a significant dollar increase of about $1,684 for K-8 and $1,962 for high school. The bill failed in House Education Committee on March 3 and was reconsidered on March 17. It passed after being amended by Representative Heather Carter to clarify that only former charter school students would receive the extra charter school amount in their voucher. After her bill was amended, Senator Yee, who is also the chair of the Senate Education Committee, stopped moving this bill and, instead amended HB2139 with the provisions from her bill and passed it out of her committee on March 20, 2014.
Last year, school districts took the opportunity to convert schools to charter schools in order to receive the additional charter school assistance money from the state. On March 20, 2014, the Arizona Senate approved a budget that puts a moratorium on traditional public schools converting to charter schools, prohibiting them from gaining this additional funding at a time when the state has been underfunding public schools since 2008. Yet, on the same day of the Senate vote, Senator Yee is handing the money out to students who leave public schools when she amended and passed HB2139.
Taxation Without Representation
ESA vouchers take taxpayer money with no accountability or transparency. Traditional public school districts have a school board made up of people elected by voters in the district. Traditional public school districts must report their financials to the state. Traditional public school district teachers must be certified. Traditional public school districts must adhere to state standards and assessments and are held accountable for student performance. When taxpayer money gets used for ESA vouchers to send students to private school or home schooling, Arizona taxpayers don’t get a say in how that money is used or even a report on results.
ALEC Agenda and the Truth About Vouchers
Vouchers are bad educational and fiscal policy. There is no evidence that they improve student achievement or reduce the cost of public education. The only purpose of vouchers is to destroy public education.Vouchers are an integral part of corporate bill-mill American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) attempt to privatize our public schools for the profit of the corporations bankrolling ALEC. Represenative Debbi Lesko, the sponsor of HB2291, is the Arizona Chair for ALEC. Read ProgressNow Arizona's release on ALEC wining and dining Arizona legislators this month. Below is more information about vouchers and ALEC:
- NEA's Five Talking Points on Vouchers
- NEA's Case Against Vouchers
- ALEC education agenda
- NEA Education Votes report on ALEC Voucher playbook.
Follow the Money
According to ProgressNow Arizona, Huppenthal’s robo-call was reportedly part of a $250,000 marketing effort by the Alliance for School Choice, the sister organization of the American Federation for Children, a right-wing anti-public education organization promoting private school vouchers that paid $63,000 to see that Huppenthal got the job running Arizona schools. The robo-call directed to parents to a website run by the Goldwater Institute. The Goldwater Institute, Alliance for School Choice, and American Federation for Children have advanced their anti-public-school agenda through the corporate bill mill ALEC. Read David Safier’s article in Tucson Weekly “Following the Huppenthal Robocall/Money Up Down and Sideways for a more in-depth look.
Another player in this fiasco is the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP). Passing these bills are a priority for CAP's president, Cathi Herrod, after her humiliating failed attempt to pass SB 1062 which would have legalized discrimination against the LGBT community and others. Read more about Herrod's influence on Arizona politics in this Arizona Republic report. CAP is an evangelical christian organization and, coincidentally, over 70% of Arizona's private schools are religious.
Emails Reveal Huppenthal Robo-Calls for Vouchers More Extensive Than Reported
ProgressNow Arizona is releasing internal emails that show Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal worked closely with anti-public-education lobbyists to encourage tens of thousands of Arizona families to abandon public schools for private education. The emails were obtained through a public records request. Read ProgressNow Arizona’s press release.
The emails show the targeted audience of the robo-call, which Huppenthal recorded urging parents to remove their children from public schools and send them to private school using the state’s voucher program, and the accompanying mailing targeted 48,000 households. This number is three times the amount Huppenthal has told the media. In addition, the emails show legal concerns from staff at the Arizona Department of Education. Read the emails.
Did Huppenthal Violate Student Privacy Laws?
That’s the question U.S. Representative Raúl Grijalva (CD-3) is now asking in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Congressman Grijalva asks the U.S. Department of Education to open an investigation into whether Superintendent Huppenthal violated student privacy laws to determine how “private student/parent information was available to a third party, when federal law restricts and protects that information.” Personally, identifiable information about students is protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which prohibits this protected information from being given to third-party entities, such as the Alliance for School Choice.
News on Arizona's Alt-Schools Fiasco
"Good Ole John" Huppenthal Put State Money Where His Voucher-Robocall Mouth Is
David Safir, Tucson Weekly, March 22, 2014
Letter: Voucher expansion bill will be a disaster
Letter to the editor, March 18, 2014
Is Huppenthal giving private schools too much help?
Sunday Square Off, March 16, 2014
Don't dismantle public schools yet
Arizona Republic Editorial Board, March 17, 2014
Educators: Don't expand private vouchers at public schools' expense
ASA open letter, March 16, 2014
AZ Family video of debate between HB2291 sponsor, Rep. Lesko, and Sen. Tovar, featuring AEA Lobbyist Jennifer Loredo, March 16, 2014.
Let's give 'free' money to every taxpayer
EJ Montini editorial, March 15, 2014
Pinal school board members battle voucher bill
Sarah Ruf, Copa Monitor March 14, 2014
Angie Donelson: School vouchers are eroding resources for children with special needs
Parent editorial in the Arizona Daily Star March 12, 2014
Arizona schools chief rips 12 News reporting on choice program
12News Video with Brahm Resnik, March 12, 2014
Divisive Arizona School Plan Advances in Legislature
Arizona Republic report by Alia Beard Rau and Karen Schmidt, March 11, 2014
Why does the Arizona Legislature hate public schools?
Laurie Roberts editorial, March 11, 2014
Our Readers' Views: Vote for Democrats
Letter to the editor March 7, 2014
Attack on Schools from Within
Letter to the editor by ProgressNow Arizona Director Robbie Sherwood, February 18, 2014
Huppenthal exposes private-school roots, and more
Arizona Daily Star article by Tim Stellar, February 14, 2014
Huppenthal under fire for backing tax dollars to private schools
Arizona Daily Star article by Howie Fischer, February 12, 2014
New ‘three Rs’ for AZ schools: Revile, Rob and Replace
EJ Montini editorial, February 12, 2014
Arizona empowerment scholarships are a step backward
My Turn Editorial by ASBA Executive Director Tim Ogle
12News story that broke the Huppenthal robo-call scandal, with comments from AEA Lobbyist Jennifer Loredo.