Two Things: The Voucher Opportunity
In case I’ve been vague, I don’t think
Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) Vouchers are good public policy for Oklahoma. My reasons have been pretty consistent:
- It’s not school choice when the private school doesn’t have to choose you back.
- Neither SB 609 (Jolley) nor HB 2949 (Nelson) includes meaningful fiscal or academic accountability for the students using the vouchers or the schools that would receive the money.
- The major voucher pushers in Oklahoma have long track records of sucking money out of public education over the last decade.
- The Oklahoma Legislature has over-regulated public schools while blaming the federal government. The feds have given states flexibility now. If these bills’ authors really care about what is best for children, they’ll follow through with sensible legislation like SB 1170, which sailed through committee yesterday. Senator Ford’s bill would eliminate the End of Instruction exams for high school courses and save the state millions of dollars. This would be a good place for our elected leaders to start showing support for public schools.
On the other hand, we still have those two voucher bills. Today, here are a couple of things to remember about that:
1. Last night, Rob Miller effectively connected the dots with the dark money influencing legislative races and education policy in Oklahoma. For these out-of-state interests, vouchers are the top priority. I can’t tell you why they care. I also can’t tell you why rural representatives and senators in Oklahoma want this to pass. I can tell you that I agree with Rob’s overarching assessment of the issue, though:
Maybe it’s just me, but I find this whole process rather unseemly. There is little doubt that a group of wealthy Americans is seeking to profit from the establishment of for-profit schools with selective enrollment policies and limited accountability in Oklahoma. And, they are using their money and connections to influence Oklahoma elections and, by extension, the making of laws.
Please read Rob’s post from last night if you want to know about the money and influence infiltrating the Oklahoma Legislature.
2. As everyone knows, I love an opportunity as much as the next person. Within the next month or so, every member of the House and every member of the Senate will have the opportunity to go on record as either favoring or opposing vouchers. This will give their constituents the opportunity, well in advance of the mid-April filing period, of deciding if they need new representation in the Legislature.
I won’t usually say that a single issue, much less a single bill, should decide an election. However, anyone who supports either of these voucher bills will have shown a clear lack of support for public education in this state.
With the filing packet for candidates conveniently located online, we may get a real life lesson in representative governance this year.Then maybe we can show the ruling elite what grass roots movements really look like and tell them what they can do with their dark money.