Archives for category: Betsy DeVos

In Michigan, conservative groups tried to get two initiatives on the ballot in 2022, but did not file enough valid signatures in time. The same consultants promoted both propositions.

Betsy DeVos poured millions into the voucher campaign, in hopes of getting it passed by a Republican legislature and avoiding a referendum. In a previous referendum, Michigan voters overwhelmingly rejected vouchers for private and religious schools.

Democrats won control of both houses of the legislature in 2022, so that idea is dead, for now.

Beth LeBlanc of The Detroit News reported:

Conservative groups last month abandoned their efforts to pass voter-initiated laws seeking to create stricter voter identification rules and a tax-incentivized scholarship fund in Michigan that could be used for private school education.

The demise of the Let MI Kids Learn ballot initiative serves as a blow to the West Michigan family of former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the Republican mega-donor who helped to launch the effort to create a tax incentive that would finance private school scholarships for students whose parents could not afford the tuition.

Members of the DeVos family contributed roughly $7.9 million toward the Let MI Kids Learn ballot initiative in 2021 and 2022, making up the lion’s share of the financing for the effort, according to state campaign finance records….

The end of the Let MI Kids Learn ballot initiative marks a “major victory for public school students, parents and educators,” said Casandra Ulbrich, a spokesperson for an opposition group called For MI Kids, for MI Schools.

The Secure MI Vote initiative, which also was pulled on Dec. 28, had largely been rendered irrelevant by the November passage of Proposal 2, which cemented in the Michigan Constitution voting rules that Secure MI Vote sought to change in statute, said Jamie Roe, spokesman for the Secure MI Vote effort and a Republican political consultant.

Former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recently spoke at Calvin University in Michigan. As one of the university’s most prominent graduates, her remarks were received with respect.

Dr. John Walcott, a professor of education at Calvin University, wrote an article for the school newspaper in which he expressed respectful disagreement with her ideas. The full article is worth reading. It takes courage for a professor to take issue with a state and national leader such as DeVos, especially in a religion-focused university.

Be sure to open the link and read the comments.

He began:

On Nov. 17, Calvin University hosted an event with Betsy DeVos. DeVos served as Secretary of Education during the Trump administration and is a graduate of Calvin University. In making the announcement, President Boer described the event as part of efforts “to hear from people who bring diverse backgrounds and perspectives to important conversations.”

DeVos served as Secretary of Education during the Trump administration and is a graduate of Calvin University. In making the announcement, President Boer described the event as part of efforts “to hear from people who bring diverse backgrounds and perspectives to important conversations.”

I understand and respect the desire of our university to welcome to our campus a distinguished alum who has a long history of involvement at local, state and national levels. Furthermore, I agree that it is important to provide space for “diverse perspectives” and “important conversations.” We must strive to be a community willing to ask tough questions and engage deeply with important issues in our world.

I believe that an opportunity for additional engagement with these issues is especially necessary because of the problematic nature of much of what Secretary DeVos proposes when it comes to education. For example, her call to support “students and not systems” fails to recognize that student learning can be supported by teachers, curriculum, financial resources, school administrators and, yes, in many cases may even require a building conducive to learning. It is easy to demonize systems, but the use of this sort of false dichotomy is ultimately unproductive.

In that spirit, I suggest that we continue the conversation started at this event. The event used an interview format that did not provide opportunity for the sort of conversation and debate that are required to dig deeply into important issues related to educational policy and the state of education in our nation. Near the close of the event, Secretary DeVos stated her ongoing desire to “debate and advance” the policies for which she advocates. I agree that we need to debate these policies and, as a university community, think deeply about issues that relate to education and political engagement and how God calls us to seek justice and be agents of renewal in our world.

I believe that an opportunity for additional engagement with these issues is especially necessary because of the problematic nature of much of what Secretary DeVos proposes when it comes to education. For example, her call to support “students and not systems” fails to recognize that student learning can be supported by teachers, curriculum, financial resources, school administrators and, yes, in many cases may even require a building conducive to learning. It is easy to demonize systems, but the use of this sort of false dichotomy is ultimately unproductive.

We also need to carefully consider Secretary DeVos’ focus on parental choice and individual rights as the basis of her calls to change our educational system. This perspective ignores the function of our schools as a public good, an institution at the core of our desire to promote democratic values and the flourishing of all students. We need to think carefully about the purpose of education in a democratic society and about the role of public schools that have been part of our nation’s commitment to education since before the writing of the U.S. Constitution. Our call to seek justice and be agents of renewal in our world may push us to prioritize the needs of our community and of the most vulnerable in our society over individual rights.

As an educational scholar and researcher, I recognize the need to carefully examine the impacts of policies that use the language of choice and freedom on student learning and on public schools. For example, advocates for school vouchers, which allow parents to use public education funds for tuition in private schools, argue that these policies can be the key to improving student outcomes while ignoring research that does not support these claims. For example, Dr. Christopher Lubienski (Director of the Center for Evaluation and Policy Analysis at Indiana University), summarizing research since 2015, states that “every study of the impacts of statewide voucher programs has found large, negative effects from these programs on the achievement of students using vouchers.”

A thorough discussion will explore the impact of DeVos-supported policies on school funding. Recent reports from Florida note that this year, school vouchers will divert $1.3 billion from public schools, and reports from states like Arizona, New Hampshire and Wisconsin show that the overwhelming majority (80%, 89% and 75%) of students utilizing vouchers were already in private schools before the programs began. We need to ask if public funds should be given to schools that are in some cases not required to comply with regulations related to special education, federal civil rights laws and curriculum standards. We should engage critically in questions regarding the role of teachers’ unions before dismissing out of hand their role in public education. And we should critically examine the rhetoric that is currently a part of the so-called “culture wars,” especially as it relates to education. I am concerned that Secretary DeVos has contributed to a misrepresentation of critical race theory and may be perceived as aligning with groups and individuals that have advanced a harmful narrative directed at the LGBTQ+ community.

These are just a few of the many complex and vitally important issues that need to be a part of a deeper conversation. I am not criticizing the decision to host Secretary DeVos, a distinguished graduate with years of activism in the public sphere. However, as a faculty member in the School of Education, it is important to me that the broader educational community understands that this does not signal an endorsement of her policies and perspectives by the School of Education. And I remain hopeful that we, as a community, will embrace the opportunity to not only offer diverse perspectives, but also engage deeply in important conversations of what it means to think deeply, act justly and live wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world.

The state Attorney General in Oklahoma just obliterated the distinction between charters and vouchers by ruling that the state law requiring charters to be non-sectarian was invalid. His decision won plaudits, not surprisingly, from far-right Governor Kevin Stitt, the state’s Catholic Conference, and the state’s American Federation for Children, which is part of Betsy DeVos’s voucher-advocating national group of the same name.

This is the breakthrough that Betsy DeVos has counted on for years: that charter schools would be the stepping stone to vouchers.

Think of all the “liberals” and “progressives” who have supported charters, abetting the eventual and inevitable public funding of religious schools: Senator Cory Booker, Senator Michael Bennett, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Reed Hastings, former Governor Jerry Brown, the Center for American Policy (CAP), DFER, the Obama Education Department, and many more. CAP is supposedly the Democratic Party think tank, but it has resolutely supported charter schools. And now it’s on the same side as Betsy DeVos.

In a 15-page opinion released today, outgoing Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor advised charter school authorizers that the aspects of the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act requiring school operators to be non-religious and non-sectarian likely violate the free exercise clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and should not be enforced.

Primarily citing three recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings regarding religious liberties in public education — Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer (2017); Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (2020); and Carson v. Makin (2022) — O’Connor argued that religiously affiliated private organizations should be allowed to apply to operate charter schools.

“In sum, we do not believe the U.S. Supreme Court would accept the argument that, because charter schools are considered public for various purposes, that a state should be allowed to discriminate against religiously affiliated private participants who wish to establish and operate charter schools in accordance with their faith alongside other private participants,” O’Connor wrote in the opinion which is embedded below.

Charter schools are publicly funded schools that can be governed and operated outside of traditional school districts. The schools can run by private management companies. Currently, Oklahoma statute requires operators of the state’s approximately 30 charter schools to be “non-sectarian” and “non-religious.”

Among the entities allowed to authorizer a charter school in Oklahoma is the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board. Executive director Rebecca Wilkinson originally asked the formal question that resulted in O’Connor’s office issuing an opinion on whether the board may “continue to enforce the nonsectarian requirements set forth” in Oklahoma statute.

Reached for comment Thursday, Wilkinson said she didn’t know the opinion had been released.

“I have not seen it,” Wilkinson said. “I can’t comment on it today, but when we hang up I guarantee you I will be going out to search for it.”

‘Overjoyed with the attorney general’s opinion’

Gov. Kevin Stitt, the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma and the American Federation for Children-Oklahoma celebrated the opinion.

“Attorney General John O’Connor’s opinion rightfully defends parents, education freedom, and religious liberty in Oklahoma,” Stitt said in a statement. “Ultimately, government takes a backseat to parents who get to determine the best learning environment for their child.”

The Catholic Conference of Oklahoma also praised O’Connor’s opinion. In an interview. executive director Brett Farley said the Catholic Conference has an application ready to submit to the SVCSB to operate its own Catholic virtual charter school.

Simply summarized, “religious charter schools are now legal in Oklahoma.”

Josh Cowen is a veteran voucher researcher, having worked in the field for more than 20 years. He is a professor of education policy at Michigan State University. After two decades as a researcher, he concluded that vouchers are a disaster for the children who use them.

Today, he writes an inside guide to voucher research. All pro-voucher research is actually disguised advocacy for vouchers, especially if it funded or produced by the organizations listed here.

I hope you will share this post with your friends on social media, post blogs about it, and get it into the hands of journalists. The public deserves transparency.

Josh Cowen writes:


The entire base of evidence to support school vouchers comes from a small, interconnected and insular group of research-activists with direct ties to Betsy DeVos, Charles Koch, the Waltons and other privatization financers.

If you stopped reading this post right now, that’s the take-home message right there: the case for vouchers relies entirely on data and evidence contributed by what amounts to industry-funded research and advocacy on behalf of the cause.

But if you’re a journalist, an educator, or just a committed public school supporter (thank you!) and you want the links and the details, read on.

WHO’S WHO IN THE VOUCHER RESEARCH/ADVOCACY WORLD?

If you’re a professional journalist either in the education space or a broader policy/politics issue, you’ve probably heard of some of these people and certainly their institutions before. But you’re busy, you’ve got deadlines to meet and editors to approve your copy, and it’s not always easy to connect some of the important dots in this area.

But they need to be connected. The single most difficult task I’ve found in my writing on school vouchers has been to explain to journalists how the question of whether vouchers “work” for kids is not some obscure academic ivory-tower debate in which both sides have a nuanced, complicated and reasonably well-founded point.

There is credible research on one side—that vouchers are largely a negative force for student outcomes—and politically oriented reports on the other. That’s it.

So the next time you see a press release, or are given a quote, or talk off record to a voucher supporter saying that vouchers work, try this little exercise and see what you find for yourself:

STEP 1: DOES THE RESEARCH COME FROM ONE OF THE FOLLOWING ORGANIZATIONS?

• American Federation for Children: the 501(c)(4) advocacy organization co-founded by Betsy DeVos to lobby for vouchers. DeVos was so close to this group she had to recuse herself as Secretary of Education from contact with the group in her first year in government.

• Cato Institute: A Right-wing advocacy think tank co-founded by Charles Koch (although Koch later sued for lack of direct control of the group).

• EdChoice: Formerly the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, named for conservative economist who first proposed vouchers. Enough said.

• ExcelInEd: The advocacy group founded by Jeb Bush to expand vouchers and other conservative education priorities from the model Bush developed while he was governor of Florida.

• Goldwater Institute: A self-described libertarian think tank in Arizona that is chiefly oriented toward litigation on behalf of a number of different conservative policy priorities—most recently school vouchers.

• Harvard University Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG): A research center at Harvard run by Professor Paul Peterson, also of the Hoover Institution, and the father of modern-day pro-voucher research.

• Heritage Foundation: the most influential Right-wingthink tank in the country, devoted in part to privatizing schools and exploiting culture wars. Also directly tied to voter suppression efforts, per deep reporting by The New Yorker.

• University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform: A university-based doctoral training department responsible for producing nearly all of the currently active voucher research-advocates working at the institutions above today. This department was founded by a $10 million gift from the Walton Family Foundation in the early 2000s.

STEP 2: IS THE AUTHOR, CO-AUTHOR OR SOURCE FOR BACKGROUND OR ATTRIBUTION ONE OF THE FOLLOWING PEOPLE?

The Original Voucher Research-Advocates

Jay P. Greene Currently Senior Fellow at Heritage, former founding head of the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform, received his PhD under Paul E. Peterson.

Paul E. Peterson Currently Professor at both Harvard and the conservative Hoover Institute at Stanford University, and the primary intellectual force behind the original positive voucher studies of the late 1990s.

Their Students, Colleagues and Acolytes

Lindsay Burke Currently at the Heritage Foundation and a member of GOP Governor Glenn Youngkin’s transition team.

Corey DeAngelis Currently Research Director for DeVos’s American Federation for Children group. But so much more: a regular Fox News contributor and active campaigner with far-Right governors like Kari Lake in Arizona and Kim Reynolds in Iowa.

Greg Forster Currently at EdChoice and a co-blogger with Jay Greene.

Matthew Ladner Currently at ALEC, EdChoice, Goldwater, and the Charles Koch Institute.

Martin Lueken Currently a research director at EdChoiceand former PhD student of Jay Greene and Patrick Wolf at University of Arkansas.

Mike McShane Currently a research director at EdChoiceand former PhD student of Jay Greene and Patrick Wolf at University of Arkansas.

Neil McCluskey Currently “Director of Education Freedom” at the Cato Institute and a member of the editorial board for the Journal of School Choice—a publication edited by Robert Maranto of the University of Arkansas.

Patrick Wolf Currently interim-head of the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform, former colleague of Jay Greene and a former PhD student of Paul Peterson.

Not all of these organizations or individuals occupy the same problematic position. For example, I happen to make a point of reading everything McShane publishes, for example, because I respect his writing and the way he talks about the world even though I fundamentally disagree with his conclusions.

And the University of Arkansas group also includes a robust and insightful group of researchers examining the needs of teachers in the Ozarks and other high-poverty areas. I’m a great admirer of Professor Gema Zamarro and her students, who are doing some very important work on the role that the COVID0-19 pandemic played in teacher workforce conditions.

For that matter, some of what we know about the devasting effects of vouchers in Louisiana actually comes from Patrick Wolf’s reports. I’ve written with him myself on studies like one showing how critical strong oversight is to voucher program performance. Wolf is in fact the only person on the list abovewith a long and commendable history of publishing negative voucher impacts in top academic journals. The point here is not to disparage the individuals but to judge the insular and self-citing base of research that supports vouchers.

The point here is to be critical consumers of this line of research. Think of it this way: no news editor would release a story on an explosive topic going on the say so of a single source. At minimum that editor would require two and usually more sources. The problem for voucher advocacy research is that it is usually the only source for positive voucher impacts available. And it’s been that way for a decade or more.

What’s the take home point? It’s this: not all voucher advocates publish exclusively pro-voucher studies, but all pro-voucher studies come almost exclusively from pro-voucher advocates.

STEP 3: WHO FUNDED THE WORK YOU’RE READING OR THE SOURCE YOU’RE CITING?

One or more of the following funders—the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Kern Family Foundation, the Koch Family Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation—funded the original studies supporting school vouchers.

The Bradley and Koch Foundations—along with Heritage—are directly involved in Big Lie, election denialism, and voter-suppression funding, as reported by Jane Mayer of the New Yorker in painstaking detail last summer.

The next time you read a report, or talk to a source for attribution, ask first about their funding sources. If they decline to provide those sources, consider declining to report their results or their viewpoint. It is common for philanthropists to request non-disclosure of their donations—that is their right. But it is your right as a reporter, and certainly the right of your readers, to decline to print their material.

Transparency is just the name of the game for credible research. You can see my own research funding right here. You can see that I once upon a time also received grant funding from the Walton Foundation. And from Bloomberg, and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. My only current active funding comes from the U.S. Department of Education Institute for Education Sciences—awarded to my research team while Betsy DeVos was education secretary!

Do I believe those organizations swayed my earlier research? Of course not. And the advocates above would say the same thing. But I don’t get to decide what to think and neither do they. That’s for the reader to judge, and that can’t happen without full transparency.

WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

This all may seem like inside baseball. A bunch of current and former voucher researchers arguing about who’s who and what’s what. A bunch of annoying and self-centered PhDs.

But in some sense that’s the entire point.

Whether an educator, reporter, researcher, policymaker or just avid reader of Diane’s blog here, you would be hard-pressed—if not find it absolutely impossible—to find a single study of voucher participant effects (how vouchers impact outcomes) that did not come from one of the few organizations or few individuals listed above, or a handful of others with direct ties to Greene, Peterson, or Arkansas.

That’s a problem, because what that means is that hundreds of millions of dollars, and hundreds of thousands of school children are being affected every day by the advocacy of a small group of people. In many cases advocacy disguised as objective and credible research.

As a counter point, consider this humble list of studies showing far more nuance and at times outright negative results from voucher programs. To create that list, I made a simple rule: no studies from organizations listed in Step 1 above. Notice the variety of names and the diversity of venues and outlets. That’s what a credible research base looks like.

A LITMUS TEST: IS THE PRO-VOUCHER EVIDENCE I’M READING POLITICAL/IDEOLOGICAL?

If at this point you’re still not convinced that the entire structure of pro-voucher research amounts to industry-funded research—think the Sacklers funding research on oxycontin’s addictive properties, or ExxonMobil funding research on fossil fuel environmental effects—there is also this:

Many of the organizations and individuals noted above also contribute to other areas of politically engaged conservative education reform.

Consider that Greene alone has published in the last 12 months studies arguing against the provision of gender-affirming care, against “wokeness”, and against Diversity, Equity and Inclusionoffices in both K12 and higher education.

Greene even put right in print for you to see that these culture war issues are useful to Right wing activists pushing the privatization of schooling.

In other words, pro-voucher research exists right alongside—and is often published by—the same people and organizations pushing other far-Right education outcomes. You need to know that to have a full picture of what voucher research truly says.

Pro-voucher research is pro-voucher advocacy, and pro-voucher advocacy is part of the larger effort to undermine public education, undermine a more humane approach to tolerating difference and diversity in our schools, and in many cases undermine free embrace of democracy itself.

Dear Mitchell,

I want to congratulate you for your courage in running for the Michigan State Board of Education and double-congratulate you for winning! You have been a faithful member of the Network for Public Education, and I have been proud to post your writings here.

You entered the race knowing that it was supposed to be a bad year for Democrats. You jumped in anyway because you thought you could make a difference. You will!

You entered knowing that you, a professor of music education at Michigan State University, would be pitted against the billionaire DeVos machine. I’m thrilled to see that the entire Democratic ticket swept the State Board of Education and both houses of the Legislature.

You beat Betsy DeVos!

When frustated educators ask me what they can do, I tell them I can think of two options: join your state union (if you have one) and fight back or run for office, for local board, state board or the legislature.

You did it and you won! I know you are thrilled to be part of Michigan’s blue wave. You inspire the rest of us.

I am happy to add you to the honor roll of this blog for your courage, your persistence, and your devotion to Michigan’s children and their public schools.

Diane

The race for governor in New York State should not be close but it is. Governor Kathy Hochul has been a responsible governor who tries to improve the lives of New Yorkers.

Her opponent Lee Zeldin is a lackey for Trump. He has supported everything Trump advocated. hHecsupports charters and vouchers. He opposes gun control.

The NYC Kids PAC outlined the differences between them:

Dear all:

An important election is happening right now for Governor and other statewide and local races. Early voting is being held today and Sunday, and then election day is Tuesday. You can check out your ballot and your voting sites here.

NYC Kids PAC strongly urges you to vote for Gov. Kathy Hochul, who has fully funded the CFE decision that is sending another $1.3 billion to NYC public schools, signed the class size bill that will lead to smaller class size caps phased in starting next fall, and supports strong gun control measures, including banning guns from schools.

In contrast, her opponent, Lee Zeldin, is an extremist who is a proponent of school privatization, announced his education platform outside of a Success charter school, and supports voucher-like “tax credits” to pay for tuition to private schools. He even opposes “red flag” laws to remove weapons from individuals deemed to be a threat and is against the ban against carrying guns in schools — all of which would make our children less safe.

So please vote for Kathy Hochul, if you haven’t already; the choice between her and Zeldin is crystal clear.

See you at the polls,

NYC Kids PAC

The more charter schools, the worse the shortage of teachers prepared in university education programs. Those in university programs intend to be career educators, and their numbers are shrinking. Thus concludes a new study from a federal research center created to study choice and its effects.

When Betsy DeVos was Secretary of Education, she awarded $10 million to create the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice (REACH). The research group is headed by Douglas Harris, and DeVos assumed that he was pro-choice.

While Harris has written papers favorable to choice, he is an independent scholar and follows the data where it leads. In this paper, he and his co-author Mary Penn conclude that charter schools contribute to the teacher shortage.

On its face, the proposition makes sense. If a young person wants to teach, they can get a job in a charter school without a teacher education degree. They can join Teach for America and become a teacher with only weeks of preparation. Or in some states, they can teach with no certification or degrees. Why bother going through the process of professional education and certification when charter schools will hire without any prerequisites?

The summary of the study concludes:

Debates about charter schools center on their immediate effects on students who attend them and how charter schools affect nearby traditional public schools. However, as the charter sector has continued to grow, a broader range of possibly unintended effects become relevant. This study is one of the first to examine the possibility that
charter schools affect the teacher pipeline. We focus specifically on how charter schools affect the number of traditionally prepared teachers who receive a bachelor’s in education.

Using data from 290 school districts with at least one commuter college nearby, we analyze the effect on the traditional teacher pipeline from schools of education. We draw the following conclusions:

Increasing district charter school enrollment by 10% decreases the supply of teachers traditionally prepared with a bachelor’s in education by 13.5-15.2% on average.

Charter-driven reductions in the supply of traditionally prepared teachers are most apparent in elementary, special education, and math education degrees.

This is consistent with the fact that charter schools mostly serve elementary grades, express interest in subject matter experts (e.g., math majors), and are less likely to assign students to special education.

These charter-driven reductions are concentrated in metropolitan areas and are largest among Black teachers.

Given how central teachers are to the educational process, any effect on the teacher pipeline is important. The vast majority of U.S. teachers still come from university-based schools of education, and these teachers stay in the profession longer than those who are not traditionally prepared, which makes these declines note worthy. A larger
point is that charter schools change the entire schooling market in ways we are only beginning to recognize.

The National Education Policy Center reviewed the study here.

Arizona voters blocked vouchers in 2018 by a 2-1 margin. The Koch-DeVos machine came back with an even bigger voucher proposal this year. Save Our Schols Arizona, a grassroots group of volunteers once more gathered signatures to compel a state referendum to block vouchers. The billionaires hate democracy and will try to stop the referendum.

The Arizona Republic reported:

A school voucher program scheduled to become law Saturday is on hold after public-school advocates gathered enough citizen signatures to temporarily block the controversial program.

On Friday, the Save Our Schools movement submitted 141,714 signatures to the Arizona secretary of state as volunteers concluded a drive to refer the voucher program to the 2024 ballot for voters to decide.

The law, authorized by the GOP majority in the Legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, would be the first universal voucher program in the nation, using taxpayer dollars for private education efforts.

It would expand the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program to every Arizona schoolchild, providing an estimated $7,000 of taxpayer money per child for a range of educational services, from private school tuition to tutors to support for parents who opt to teach their children at home…

Raquel Mamani, an educator and parent, celebrated the petition drive, saying it puts on hold “the anti-public education, anti-parent, anti-student agenda forced into our state by extremists.”

Volunteers gathered signatures from all 15 counties in 80 days, a sign of widespread support, said Nicky Indicavitch, outreach director for Save Our Schools Arizona.

“Arizonans want top quality, fully funded public schools in every neighborhood,” she said.

This is the second time in five years public-school proponents have taken to the streets to block voucher expansion. In 2017, a similar referendum drive sent an expansion of the ESA program to ballot, where voters in 2018 rejected it by a margin of nearly 2 to 1.

Friday’s filing had echoes of the 2017 effort, but both supporters and opponents of the ESA program expect a more robust, heavily funded fight this time around.

The American Federation for Children [the DeVos organization] has signaled its support for the expanded program, and a “decline to sign” movement that tried to discourage people from signing the referendum petitions said it has proof of illegal signature efforts…

After the universal expansion passed in June, the state started taking preliminary applications. Data released last month showed 6,500 families had applied in just two weeks. Of those families, about 75% indicated they did not have a child previously in public school.

Those early findings solidified opposition from public-school advocates, who argued that the numbers showed the beneficiaries were likely people already paying private tuition and looking to cash in on a hefty state subsidy.

We recently learned that Josh Shapiro, Democratic candidate for Governor of Pennnsylvania, has endorsed vouchers.

One of our readers supplied an email for this “Democrat” who has embraced the Republican agenda for education. Josh Shapiro is a hypocrite. Real Democrats support public goods. Real Democrats care about the common good. Real Democrats fight privatization of what belongs to the public.

Here’s his email: contact@joshshapiro.org, As a union public school teacher and a member of the democratic party I am absolutely outraged by your decision to endorse charter schools.

If you don’t know why you should not be supporting the same education policies as Donald Trump and Betsy Devos, then you have no business holding public office for the democratic party.

Peter Greene is a retired teacher in Pennsylvania; he stepped down after nearly 40 years in the classroom and has been a prolific writer ever since, stepped in the wisdom of practie.

He is disgusted with Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro’s decision to support school vouchers.

Shapiro has joined forces with the GOP. How curious that Shapiro has thrown himself in the same boat with Greg Abbot, Ron DeSantis, Doug Ducy, and every other anti-public school governor.

Greene writes that Shapiro’s website touts his support for vouchers:

Josh favors adding choices for parents and educational opportunity for students and funding lifeline scholarships like those approved in other states and introduced in Pennsylvania.

The Lifeline Scholarship bill is a GOP education savings account bill–a super-voucher bill– currently sitting in the appropriations committee in the House; the Senate has passed their version. Not just charters. Not just traditional vouchers. But nice shiny, super vouchers. Take a bunch of money from public schools (based on state average cost-per-pupil, not local numbers, so that many districts will lose more money than they would have spent on the students). Handed as a pile of money/debit card which can be spent on any number of education-adjacent expenses.

The state will audit the families at least once every two years. The bill contains the usual non-interference clause, meaning that the money can be spent at a private discriminatory school, and no one will be checking to see if the school is actually educating the student. The bill is only old-school in that it uses the old foot-in-the-door technique of saying that this is just to rescue students from “failing” public schools (but includes no provisions to determine if the child has been moved to a failing private school).

Choicers are ecstatic…

You know a great way to make sure that zip code, ethnicity, and class don’t determine a child’s educational quality? It’s not to give some of them voucher money that may or may not get a few students to a better education.

It’s to fully fund and support all the schools in all the zip codes.

Boy, would I love to vote for a governor who supported that for a plan.

But no–we now have a choice of two guys who are barely different on education. Mastriano would gut spending completely while implementing vouchers, while Shapiro would just slice open a public education vein.

In fairness to Shapiro, his site says he’s going to fully fund education, too, which would be kind of like putting a hose in one side of your swimming pool while chopping a gaping hole in the base on the other side. It’s not a great plan. If he means it, which now, who’s to say.

Shapiro’s position is awful. It would align him with just about any GOP candidate in any other state, and the only reason it isn’t a disqualifier in this state is because insurrectionist Doug Mastriano is so spectacularly, so uniquely terrible, so ground-breakingly awful. Mastriano is still a terrible, terrible choice.

Voucher fans were sad because they could see their hopes and dreams going down in flames with Mastriano, but now they can rest assured that whoever wins, they will get a governor who supports an education program that any right wing Republican would love. For those of us who support public education, it is brutally disappointing.