A Systematic Attack on Public Schools

Last week, I wrote about the late session momentum and ultimate passage of legislation creating Education Savings Accounts for certain students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).

Following my second story in as many days on the topic, proponents of the accounts took the opportunity to “set the facts straight” on IEP vouchers.

What I found most interesting about this response was that Tennessee is now the fourth state to adopt an ESA-style program for IEP students. Additionally, Arkansas this year passed a scholarship program — more consistent with a voucher than the ESAs just passed in Tennessee — and choice advocates are applauding each effort as one more victory in the march toward privatization of public schools.

In fact, in an article published by the Heartland Institute, Dan Greenberg, of the pro-privatization Advance Arkansas Institute said:

I look forward to the day that policymakers realize that choice will have wonderful consequences for everyone, not just families with special-needs kids, and expand this program accordingly.

Opponents of the ESA-style vouchers in Tennessee and other states consistently argued that once such a program was approved, it would be expanded to include more students and to build momentum for a broader voucher program. Both Greenberg’s push for just such an outcome in Arkansas and the Beacon Center’s enthusiasm behind the Tennessee program indicate that whether they are called ESAs or scholarships or just plain vouchers, programs to provide public funds for the private education of special needs students are simply a first step toward programs to privatize public education in the entire state.

The fact that nearly identical legislation is advancing in state after state points to a systematic attack on public education. Those pushing that agenda in Tennessee have spent at least $3 million over the past three years and have vowed to continue spending until they win the privatization prize.

For more on education policy in the states, follow @TheAndySpears


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