The billionaires Koch Brothers and Betsy DeVos had started an experiment with the government to redefine education that goes against teachers’ unions, teachers and parents. Both the sides are ready for a fight.
Koch brothers funded a law by the Arizona lawmakers that enacts the broadest school vouchers law. These state funded vouchers will allow parents to have more school choice and are redeemable at private or religiously affiliated schools.
The opponents considered it as a step to further weaken the already ailing public school systems. The act may drain money from Arizona’s underfunded public schools. Women who had been fighting against the legislation for months alleges that lawmakers have unheeded the public will and considered the wishes of billionaires.
This group of women was going to use “Citizens’ referendum”. But these six women were not aware of the challenges. To overturn the law they needed 75,321 signatures on their referendum. The group is called “Save Our Schools” set out to collect the signatures. The opposition thought that it was almost impossible.
The group had inspired a statewide movement and have gained hundreds of volunteers who are ready to beat the scorching heat of Arizona. They were out in parks, parking lots, baseball games, and shopping malls asking people to sign the referendum. They conveyed the message that the billionaires are trying to endanger public education by getting Arizona’s legislature.
Beth Lewis is the president of the group and she described how there are some classes in Arizona’s schools that are so underfunded that class teachers need to ask for donations from the private citizens.
A study shows that Arizona is the third-lowest state in public school spending per student – $7,613. The school funding per pupil has only reduced. Arizona is not able to afford one school system. Vouchers will only funnel the money towards private schools.
Save Our Schools submitted 111,540 signatures in August 2017 but Koch Brothers’ political affiliation, Americans for Prosperity, sued to block the referendum. A judge dismissed the lawsuit and approved the referendum for 6 November. Both the parties will be closely watching the vote.
Arizona also has a voucher scheme called Empowerment Scholarship Accounts for disabled, children of veterans, children of tribal lands and children in schools with D or F ratings.
While the law argues that this does not violate the state constitution, but many Arizonans saw that as vouchers in disguise for money laundering.
Americans for Prosperity says that the vouchers are not draining money from public schools. The government pays for a real less amount than what those private schools spend on every student.
Americans for Prosperity and American Federation of Children have pushed for vouchers in other states. An Arizona like law was passed in Nevada in 2015 but the state’s supreme court ruled it as unconstitutional. Utah voters voted to revoke the voucher’s law in 2007.
Some people are also saying that Arizona has been suffering with problem of school choice. It is important for parents to have as many educational options as possible. Beth and her team is all set to turn the impossible task into possible.