Roberts: Worsley just figuring out he got played on vouchers

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Sounds like Sen. Bob Worsley – the senator who caved and allowed a major expansion of the state’s school voucher program – is feeling like he got conned.

Note to Worsley: You’re just now figuring that out?

The Mesa Republican was the focus of the powers-that-be who for years have been working to funnel the public’s money into private and parochial schools – and to heck with the impact on the notoriously underfunded public schools.

With Sen. Kate Brophy-McGee, R-Phoenix, a resolute no on voucher expansion, it was Worsley or bust for the special interests out to ensure that private and religious schools get more and more (and yes, more) of the public’s money.

Worsley folded like an accordion, agreeing to support Senate Bill 1431 as long as Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (read: vouchers) would be capped at 30,000 students by 2020.

Poor Worsley is so, so mistaken

Before Gov. Doug Ducey even signed the bill, one of key architects of the bill, the influential Goldwater Institute, was assuring its financial supporters that the compromise to get Worsley’s vote was meaningless.

“There is a cap at 5,000 new kids per year; we will get it lifted,” Goldwater CEO Darcy Olsen wrote in an e-mail on Thursday evening, an hour or so after the bill passed the Legislature with not a single vote to spare in either chamber.

Olsen’s comments were shocking only in the brazenness of the timing … to everybody, that is, but Worsley, who apparently thought he had a deal.

“I just think it’s deplorable that she would put that in print…,” he told Capitol Media Services’ Howard Fischer. “She was negotiating in bad faith with us if that was her intention.”

If?  It’s always been the intention of Republicans and their dark-money sponsors to impose an unlimited universal voucher system in the name of school choice (read: bolstering the bottom line of religious and private schools).

First came camel’s nose (disabled kids), then his front legs (foster kids), then the first hump (kids in failing districts), then the second hump (kids on reservations), now the third hump (all kids, but limits to 30,000) and coming next year or the year after: the camel’s big hairy, you-know-what.

Worsley, in his interview with Fischer, tried to sound as if he has an actual spine, vowing that the cap will not be lifted.

“That will not happen while I’m in the legislature,” he said.

4 theories on why Worsley caved

Somehow I’m guessing that the Goldwater Institute isn’t all that worried about the wall of styrofoam that is Bob Worsley.

The biggest question for me is this: Why did Worsley cave?

I’ve called him several times to talk about ESAs and he hasn’t returned a single one. That leaves me only able to speculate that either …

A: He thinks his giving in will deliver him the votes for his $225 million subsidy for the Arizona Coyotes. (Not going to happen.)

Or B: That his giving in means the Legislature won’t go after $211 million in federal desegregation funding given to 18 school districts, including the Mesa Unified School District. (Wasn’t going to happen anyway. That bill is dead.)

Or C: That his giving in means the Legislature will revive his bill allowing counties to ask voters to raise the gas tax to fund road improvements. (Our leaders passing something with the T word? Sure, that’ll happen.)

Or D: That he just likes to be The Man – the guy who negotiates the final deal.  I can appreciate that. I can respect that.

What I can’t respect: that he gave up the public schools.

Our leaders already don’t respect them, don’t fund them and have shown no interest in fixing what ails them.

Is Worsley thinking that’ll change once all the suburban kids take public money and run to the nearest private schools, leaving the public schools filled with poor, largely minority kids?

-Originally sponsored by Laurie Roberts, AZ Central on 4/10/17 at 4:16 pm