Education in Two Worlds: Arizona's Neo-Vouchers: The Camel is in the Tent

NEPC's Kevin Welner called them "neo-vouchers": tax credits and "scholarships" that attempt to hide their intent behind deceitful labels.

On Thursday night, April 6, 2017, a Republican dominated Arizona Legislature passed a significant expansion of a voucher program that has been in effect since 2011. Governor Ducey, founder of the ice cream parlor chain Cold Stone Creamery, promised to sign the bill into law.

The Empowerment Scholarships -- vouchers by another name -- were originally available only to a highly limited number of students: those with special needs; children of military personnel stationed in areas of conflict, and a few others. But in classic camel's-nose-under-the-tent fashion, each year the Legislature pushed the limits a little broader: students on Indian reservations, for example. The "scholarships" may be redeemed at private schools, religious or otherwise. Recent research has established that the vouchers are going primarily to upper-middle class families.

The bill that will soon become Arizona law will gradually expand the program to all sorts of students until a cap of 30,000 is reached in a few years. But expect the boundaries to expand further as an emboldened Legislature introduces future bills.

With a sizable portion of its students being Hispanic and a sizable portion of its taxpayers being White retirees, look to Arizona to be the leader in the destruction of the public school system.

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Gene V Glass

Gene V Glass is currently a Senior Researcher at the National Education Policy Center and a Regents' Professor Emeritus from Arizona State University. Trained originally in statistics, his interests broadened to include psychotherapy research, evaluation methodology, and policy analysis. He was twice (1968, 1970) honored with the Palmer O. Johnson...