Originally Published: September 7, 2017 6:07 a.m.
In our representative democracy, the people we elect are supposed to represent us. It’s a rather simple concept.
So why are backers of school vouchers so afraid that they are doing everything in their power to keep voters from weighing in on that issue?
If our legislators truly represent us, then they shouldn’t fear a fair vote.
This week the Arizona Secretary of State’s office said that there will be more than enough valid signatures on petitions so that voters will get the final say on vouchers in 2018.
Nonprofits backing vouchers instead want the courts to step in and invalidate the petitions because of widespread “fraud.” The lawmaker who introduced the bill, Sen. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, suggested the legislature could rescind the law it passed last year, change a word or two, then pass it again to keep voters from being able to have the final say.
Perhaps they intend to keep doing that until voters get tired of signing petitions. These actions tell us that the proponents of vouchers fear how the citizens of this state will vote. They should.
Arizona ranks 48th out of 51 states (including Washington, D.C.) in spending for public education. Vouchers would take more money away from public schools and give it instead to private and parochial schools.
Vouchers could be an idea worth exploring, but only if public education is fully funded. It is not in Arizona.
Our public school districts have to sue the state (Chino Valley Unified is one of the lead plaintiffs in the most recent lawsuit) to get lawmakers to pay what the state’s voters insist they pay.
Arizona spends $3,000 less per student than the average across the United States, meaning our children, our future, will be at a disadvantage when they reach adulthood.
How does the lack of funding impact schools? The most obvious answer is more students per teacher. Talk to some teachers, and they’ll tell you they notice it most in the lack of special education personnel.
Private and parochial schools can say no to children with special needs. Public schools cannot. If our teachers are having to spend more time and money dealing with children who need special attention, then they are giving less attention to the other students.
Instead of addressing these problems, our lawmakers concoct a law that takes even more money away from public schools to give to those that are not held to the same standards as public schools?
No wonder they fear letting the voters have the final say on vouchers.
If they truly represent the citizens who elect them, they would not fear the outcome of a vote. And if they do fear the outcome, then maybe it’s time for them to remember who elected them in the first place and quit neglecting the public schoolchildren of Arizona.