Officially, Arizona has claimed the title of the state with the most school choice in the nation. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has just signed a bill into law that will allow all students in K-12 to have an expanse in education saving accounts. Students in Arizona will no longer be restricted by their zip code. However, critics of the expansion of Empowerment Scholarships Accounts are stating that school choice will harm public schools. However, this is not about public school. School choice is a right.
Arizona’s School Choice Bill
During Governor Ducey’s State of State address on January 10th, the Arizona Governor made it clear what his goal was this year. Ducey stated that:
In this session, let's expand school choice in any way we can. Let's think big and find more ways to get kids into the school of their parent's choice. Send me the bills, and I'll sign them.
Over the last couple of months, the Governor’s wish has come true as the Arizona Legislator passed HB 2583. Interestingly, the bill seems to go above and beyond what the governor had in mind. This new bill will allow 1.1 million K-12 access to Arizona’s current school of choice program, also known as Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. The main aspects of this bill are:
- Expands eligibility to Empowerment Scholarship Accounts to all families in Arizona
- Families who participate would receive over $6,500 per year per child for private schools, homeschooling, and other educational services that fit a child’s needs outside of traditional public schools
- Children who are opting out of public school (or have) would be allowed to join the ESA program
- Ensures families have the freedom to choose whatever form of education best fits their child’s needs
This is expected to be the largest win for school choice in American history. However, people are trying to punch holes in school choice. Critics claim it takes away from public school funding, but they are ignoring the fundamental freedom that school choice should be. Well, let’s look at some these arguments.
“It Takes Away Funding from Traditional Public Schools”
One of the major arguments against school choice focuses on funding being taken away from traditional public schools. The argument is that allowing families school choice will take away and hurt children from getting a good education because their funding will be cut. After all, if the funding follows the student, then they can’t keep the money for the system.
First of all, “government” schools get most of their funding from Federal and local tax dollars. In addition, the only funding that might leave is the funding that each kid gets by attending that school. Even then, schools still get to keep a significant portion of this student funding when the student doesn’t attend. In fact, public schools spend more than private schools. Studies show that the poorly run school systems are harming public the school's bottom line rather than school choice.
According to EdChoice, public school funding has been poorly managed. While school pensions have doubled over 10 years, public school officials are still writing pension plan checks that cannot be cashed for decades. Furthermore, a study shows that public schools have spent $805 million hiring non-teaching staff to handle student demand. Not only does this reduce the number of educators for students, but it also reduces the paychecks of actual educators.
Like always, administrators are blaming anyone but themselves. Instead of looking at their poor spending decisions, they are blaming school choice for hurting their bottom line.
“It Will Segregate Schools Again”
This argument focus on the concept that there is no separate and equal education. Opposers claim that school choice will basically create segregation based on finances and racial lines. However, this is misguided.
One of the major reasons why there is educational disparity is that people are restricted by zip codes. Depending on your zip code, public schools have more or less money because of the area. In a way, the public school system is already segregated. Yet, school choice breaks these lines created by zip codes.
Instead of a family being forced to go to a public school in their area, a family can choose where their child goes or how they are educated. A student that is living in lower-income areas will no longer have to suffer educational disadvantages because students can use their education funding to go to a better public school or apply for private and charter schools. In a real sense, the public school system is already practicing segregation and school choice will help correct it.
Reasons Why School Choice is Winning
These are just two arguments against school choice. People have been trying to make significant holes in the subject. However, the school choice movement is getting momentum from all demographics. According to the American Federation of Children, school choice has the overwhelming support of 72% of pollsters. The reasons are clear. School choice allows for:
- School safety
- Increased parental involvement
- Gives options to low-income families
- Higher graduation rates
- School accountability
School choice is a right. Zip codes should not restrict education. All schooling options should be accessible to all families regardless of economic status.