Still more legislative trickery, this time on new school voucher legislation | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Still more legislative trickery, this time on new school voucher legislation

Posted By on Wed, Mar 13, 2019 at 8:33 AM

A hurryup override of voters on a minimum wage increase wasn't the only legislative trickery afoot yesterday. A key step was also taken to help passage of a monumental change in education policy in favor of school vouchers.

As I reported yesterday, legislation with key sponsorship from Senate leader Jim Hendren would provide $3 million for school vouchers, euphemistically termed "scholarships" under a plan modeled after a now billion-dollar scheme in Florida that allows rich people to designate that their taxes go — not for general state purposes — but to pay to send kids to private schools.

This is a big deal. The $3 million opening voucher proposal, enough to support some 400 kids in private schools, if approved, is certain to be judged a success and gradually expanded, continuing to sap support from real public schools. This will be on top of the harmful impact already being felt thanks to proliferating charter schools and segregative transfer programs approved by a legislature under the thrall of the Walton Family Foundation-financed "school choice" agenda.

We've known this bill was coming. And public school advocates were gearing up with hopes that some public school supporters on the Senate Education Committee (Sens. Joyce Elliott and Linda Chesterfield) might have a shot at slowing the Walton-financed express train. No luck.

The bill was assigned — not to the Education Committee — but to the Revenue and Taxation Committee. This is only nominally a tax issue. It extends the same tax credit scheme already in place for a small voucher program for children with learning problems. It has much larger implications for education than tax policy. Although, in time, the leaching of public money for unaccountable, unregulated private schools could have broad budget implications.

Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin normally makes committee assignments. I haven't confirmed he was in the chair yesterday when this bill was assigned, but it would fit. He's lately been a noisy advocate of the "school choice" agenda. And, no, though it has become almost a cliche to say otherwise, parents do NOT always know what's best for their kids, as their choices of failing and even criminally run private schools in other states have illustrated.

Don't like this sort of power politics? Inherit $100 billion and start spending it on your own pet politicians and policies. With that bankroll, you'll find a receptive audience.

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