PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) –
Some of Arizona’s top teachers on Monday delivered a strong message to Gov. Doug Ducey. It was that his expansion of the controversial school voucher program is the “beginning of the end” for public schools.
The past six Arizona Teachers of the Year delivered Ducey a scathing letter criticizing him for what they see as his failure on K-12 education.
It pointed out that Arizona is in the midst of teacher shortage, dealing with large class sizes and ranks near the bottom in school funding in the country.
They also wrote that expanding the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts will, “(E)nsure that we remain near the bottom for the foreseeable future because more resources will be drained from public schools.”
The teachers delivered the note in person during a meeting with the governor.
“This is a nuclear bomb that has been dropped on education. It might not die this year or next year but this is the beginning of the end,” Christine Marsh, the 2016 Arizona teacher of the year, said after the meeting.
Last week, Ducey signed SB 1431, which allows every child in Arizona to become eligible for a program where parents can use taxpayer money to send their child to private school.
The bill limits the growth to 30,000 students by 2022.
Supporters say this gives parents more educational options and power over where their kids go to school.
You can read the letter below:
Governor Ducey, April 10, 2017
The six of us were looking forward to meeting with you today. We envisioned a collaborative and engaging discussion about solutions to many of the problems that plague Arizona’s public schools as a result of inadequate funding. After you signed the voucher bill on Thursday, we realized that we needed to inform you of not just our individual opinion, but the views of teachers throughout our state.
There is a teacher shortage of crisis proportions in this state. There were 2,000 unfilled positions, four weeks into this school year. Funneling public money into private hands with a total lack of oversight will only exacerbate that crisis; we have the third highest class sizes in the nation, and the voucher bill will also exacerbate that; we are funded at 49th in the nation, and the voucher bill will ensure that we remain near the bottom for the foreseeable future because more resources will be drained from public schools.
However, we already rank #1 in school choice. Is there a correlation between the above statistics and this one?
This bill is not fiscally responsible, nor is it in the best interests of our state’s most vulnerable children. Arizona already spends the least on students who need the most. Families who financially struggle will not be able to use vouchers, and you must know that roughly 26% of our state’s children live in poverty, with another 17% hovering right above the poverty line. While we believe in school choice, we also know that for so many of our state’s families, “choice” is more about paying the electric bill or paying the mortgage; buying food or buying gas. For those families, choice is about basic needs.
In districts like Scottsdale, voucher funds will come from local revenue sources, but when a student from Scottsdale gets a voucher from the general fund, it leaves even less funding for our state’s most impoverished districts. How are students in rural districts going to benefit from this bill?
Did you know that roughly 120,000 students are in classes without teachers? The most significant aspect of a teacher’s job is making his students feel valued and special. How can the teacher-less 120,000 students possibly feel valued and special?
As Teachers of the Year, we know the importance of making our students feel valued; however, we don’t feel valued. Thursday’s actions prove to us what we all feared…that we don’t just feel undervalued, we actually are.
There are many solutions to our state’s teacher recruitment and retention crisis. Teacher pay is one factor, and so are poor working conditions, like large class sizes and lack of supportive student services. We suggest the state invest in these areas instead of helping students in the most affluent districts to underwrite the cost of their private and religious schools with vouchers, which is what studies show is happening with voucher use in our state.
Arizona’s children deserve adequate and equal funding. We ask that you don’t deprive our students of a public school education by starving our public schools in the name of choice.
John-David Bowman Nancie Lindblom Christine Marsh
2015 Arizona Teacher of the Year 2013 Arizona Teacher of the Year 2016 Arizona Teacher of the Year
Michelle Doherty Beth Maloney Kristie Martorelli
2017 Arizona Teacher of the Year 2014 Arizona Teacher of the Year 2012 Arizona Teacher of the Year
-Originally published by Dennis Welch, AZ Family on 4/10/17 at 8:38 pm