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Arizona needs universal vouchers because public schools are failing so many students – The Arizona Republic

Earlier this summer, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a monumental school choice expansion into law, the most extensive education choice program in U.S. history, intending to serve 1.1 million students.
He was right in doing so, since government schools have been failing many students for quite some time now.
However, shortly after Ducey signed the legislation into law, an Arizona group supporting the education establishment went to work opposing access to freedom in education by attempting to collect nearly 120,000 signatures to delay the Education Savings Account expansion. 
And although they may believe that protecting the status quo is right, they are wrong. And the majority of Arizonans disagree with them.
A poll conducted in January by the Public Opinion Strategies showed that 65% of Arizona voters  supported expanding Empowerment Scholarship Account to all K-12 students.
Not only does the public majority support more educational freedom in Arizona, as a Latina mom that works in education, I can understand why families in the state support school choice. Every parent wants their child to feel safe, loved, happy and thrive in their elementary and high school years.
Today, too many parents recognize this is not their reality and that the system is broken. They feel desperate for additional options. This is evidenced by the fact the Department of Education website crashed shortly after applications became available for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. Parents want to be empowered to do what is best for their children.
‘Gold standard’: Ducey heralds first-in-nation voucher law
Not all schools work for all families, especially those families who live in lower-income areas. The data show that they truly are not. Without school choice programs, it’s lower-income families who lack the resources for another choice.
Students of color, particularly Latinos in Arizona, faced serious drawbacks as a result of the pandemic. Whether it was having to overcome barriers with virtual schooling, financial struggles, or restricted internet connection and access to devices at home, Arizona children suffered academic achievement gaps that must be addressed.
An analysis of data by The Arizona Republic and WestEd/Helios Education Foundation illustrates this point further. The study indicates that about 8,900 fewer students enrolled in kindergarten in 2020 compared to 2019 in the Grand Canyon state. Enrollment decreases amounted for 23% of the overall drop.
As a large and growing demographic in the state, Hispanics make up nearly half of Arizona’s K-12 students. The learning loss aggravated the education achievement gap, and the pandemic widened it more.
Parents are fed up.
They will not stand by as a teacher’s union-backed organization threatens to take their parental rights over education and the American Dream away. Hundreds of families have created a “Decline to Sign Campaign,” mobilizing against SOS Arizona’s petition and declining to close the door on opportunities, declaring that school choice gives power to parents.
It’s time to give all Arizonans an opportunity to succeed. Funding should not belong to the institutions; it should follow the students.
Organizations like the ones against school choice expansion in Arizona shouldn’t make an excuse for the deficient education system with the utopian ideal that it can fix itself with just more funding.
What is necessary is to advocate for helping school children who are not succeeding in the traditional system. What is necessary is an understanding that not all students learn in the same manner, and that unique abilities must be nurtured.
And what is most necessary is providing bold freedom of choice for all parents and children drowning in the ineffective funding argument.
Arizona officials have stepped up to prioritize educational freedom for future generations in their state. Their actions have said they will not let our children continue to fail.
School choice opponents should take a page from Gov. Ducey’s book and truly champion our children, not the status quo.
Valeria Gurr serves as director of external affairs relations for the American Federation for Children. She was the program manager for the Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy. Share your thoughts at


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