Arizonans are now being asked to give up their parental rights.
That’s the way school choice advocate Corey A. DeAngelis sees it, anyway. Since Arizona lawmakers passed the most sweeping school choice law in the nation, opponents are gathering signatures to put the issue to a public referendum in the hopes they can kill the bill even after its passage.
With just 119,000 signatures or so, that could happen. Thus, the message to Arizona voters from DeAngelis, national director of research at the American Federation for Children.
“Arizona residents should never sign away their parental rights,” he tells The Lion. “The money doesn’t belong to the government schools. Education funding is meant for educating children, not for protecting a particular institution.
“Arizona just passed the gold standard of educational freedom. Every single family will be able to take their children’s education dollars to the education providers of their choosing. Arizona will now fund students, not systems.”
Unless the current petition drive by a public education coalition calling itself Save Our Schools prevails.
Supporters of school choice are rallying to save it in Arizona, where parents under the newly expanded Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) law will be able to take some $7,000 per child in state funding to the schools of their choice – including not just Christian and private schools, but even homeschools. The “ESAforALL – Decline to Sign Campaign” is hoping to educate voters into not signing the SOS petition that could overturn the law.
“Arizonans should decline to sign any petitions from Save Our Schools Arizona,” Jenny Clark, founder and CEO of school choice supporter Love Your School, tells The Lion. “The students of our state deserve access to the education environment that best meets their child’s unique needs. These organizations are trying to stop families from having education options for their kids – so please decline to sign their petitions!”
“It’s pathetic that defenders of the status quo are desperately fighting to trap low-income kids in failing government schools,” DeAngelis says. “They believe your children, and the dollars meant for educating them, belong to the government institutions. But that view is backwards. Parents are the best decision-makers for their children’s education.”
That’s certainly what Grant Botma thinks. After attending a private school in K-8 and then having to go to a public high school due to family finances – and not being challenged academically there – the Arizona businessman and father of three says he and his wife have chosen flexible homeschooling for their 13-, 11- and 9-year-old children. But he knows firsthand what it’s like not to have the money for alternatives to public schools.
“I was one of those kids,” he tells The Lion.
So he was excited when the universal school choice bill passed.
“I believe that the parent is the ultimate authority in a child’s education, bottom line,” he says. “And this legislation empowers parents to be that authority. It empowers all parents. It doesn’t matter your family’s zip code, it doesn’t matter your family’s income, it doesn’t matter your family’s race, religion, any status you want to put out there. Every single family with children K through 12 is empowered.
“And that’s a really, really big deal.”
It breaks his heart that some are circulating a petition to take that freedom away from families in need, as his was growing up.
“Signing this prevents parents from being the ultimate authority and keeps many, many, many families, specifically low-income families that don’t have options, keeps them trapped.”
For its part, Decline to Sign urges in a tweet, “#declinetosign the SOS petition so we can keep the ESA scholarships. We want every Arizona student to be able to attend the best school for him/her.”
“Do not sign anything from Save Our Schools Arizona!” the group warns in another tweet.