Thursday, April 5, 2012

Governor vetoes voucher expansion bill -- in Arizona

Sometimes, the day's news leaves the rational reader feeling light-headed, dizzy.

Among red states, Arizona takes a back seat to no one.

In fact, the historian and social scientist in me points out that the population of the Southwest reflects the western-most migration of eighteenth-century South Carolinians. Travel through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Arizona, and you'll see many of South Carolina's place names and family names.

As evidence, Mississippi's Trent Lott's first name -- Chester -- reflects his grandparents' origins in Chester County, South Carolina. Arizona's John McCain is descended from Mississippi planters. Seeds of ideologies sown in South Carolina nearly 300 years ago have blown due west, which explains many invisible kinships across the southern belt of the nation.

Which makes today's news from Phoenix so disorienting: "Arizona's Gov. Brewer Vetoes Voucher Expansion," reads the headline at Education Week's blog this morning.

Arizona's governor? Jan Brewer? The same governor who pushed for radical immigration reform, and who upbraided President Barack Obama on the tarmac when he last visited her state?

She has vetoed a voucher bill?

That's the news, which I happily, but confusedly, offer you here:

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has vetoed legislation that would have allowed a major expansion of school vouchers in her state, citing concerns about its costs and "artificially manipulating" the market of public and private schools.

Unbelieveable -- a principled free-market ideologue!

The Republican governor's decision is certain to flummox and disappoint backers of private school vouchers, who had hailed the legislature's recent passage of the measure as an important step for school choice.

Yet Brewer said she objected to increasing costs for taxpayers before a state budget is approved, according to a letter explaining her veto. And she also cited broader, philosophical concerns about skewing the balance between public and private schools, in an effort to promote school choice.

"The state of Arizona needs to work towards a system of different educational settings to cater to the different ways in which our students learn," Brewer wrote. "A well-equipped system with choice competition and innovation—these are the keys to our educational system. Local school districts, charter schools, home school, private and parochial schools all have an important role to play."

But Brewer, while describing herself as a long-time advocate of school choice—citing other legislation she has signed promoting educational competition—also said "there is a careful balance we have to maintain."

"We must enhance educational options wherever we can, but we must also ensure that government is not artificially manipulating the market through state budget or tax policy that would make an otherwise viable option so unattractive that it undermines rational choice in a competitive market," the governor explained.

Arizona currently allows families of children with disabilities to use accounts of public money to cover private school tuition and other costs. The legislation would have expanded the program to a broader student population, by making students in struggling schools—specifically rated "D" or "F" schools—eligible for taxpayer funds.

This is not the first time Brewer has nixed a voucher proposal that emerged from the GOP-dominated legislature.

Last year, she vetoed a measure that would have awarded tax credits to entities that supported private school scholarships—also because she had concerns over the program's costs.

Sometimes, it's better to accept good news without studying too closely the reasons for it.

Strange as it sounds to say, Brewer made a great decision for her public schoolchildren today, and she deserves the thanks of them, their parents and their educators.

Here's hoping Governor Nikki Haley will take note.

No comments:

Post a Comment