School choice for every family with school children is necessary to improve education in Arkansas. The ability to exercise school choice is the only way parents will have enough leverage to get government school districts to listen and respond to complaints about the quality of government education and complaints about radical leftist indoctrination in our government schools. School choice is also the only way teachers will have a real voice in schools because the teachers will have more options as job openings grow in better run schools (both government run and private schools).
How can parents overcome the big money from the likes of the Walton Family Foundation (WALMART) to entice government schools to adopt transgender indoctrination programs for minors? School choice, which enables parents to send their children elsewhere, is the only way.
Support of school choice is one of the big promises the Republican Party of Arkansas makes to voters through the party platform. Here is the party’s promise.
The education of Arkansas children goes hand-in-hand with our desire to grow the state economically and will help Arkansas to become a greater player on the global stage. This requires openness to every type of educational system available: homeschooling, distance learning, public school, private school, charter school, and vocational or technical school.
Every tool should be given equal consideration and be utilized in a manner that puts the student’s needs above all “to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education.”
Every opportunity for every family to enroll each child in the school of his/her choice should be secured by government and offered to Arkansas families. We also believe the student’s educational tax dollars should follow the student to his/her choice of educational procurement.[i]Parents must have the ability to make informed choices regarding the education of their children and should not be restricted by lines on a map or the cost of tuition.
Despite the Republican Party’s strong commitment to school choice for every family, many Republican legislators are still too afraid of their local school superintendent to support school choice, even when the impact of the legislation is so minuscule as to be “school choice in name only.”
To see the failure of many state legislators to follow the platform, you only need to look at two bills from the last regular session of the Arkansas General Assembly which was in 2021.
The first bill was HB1371 by State Representative Ken Bragg (R-Sheridan). The bill would have provided some scholarships for children of low-income families. Funding would have been provided by private donations that would have qualified for a dollar-for-dollar tax credit on Arkansas income tax. The bill was limited to a total of $4 million for private school scholarships and even promised $6 million for public (government) schools. If you assume a scholarship of $5,000 per child the bill would have helped only 800 low income children to go to private school. But HB1371 only received 44 (out of 100) “yes” votes, falling far short of the 51 votes needed to pass the legislation in the House. Now consider that the Republican Party has not only a majority of the membership of the House of Representatives but a supermajority (with 78 Republicans) and it becomes obvious many Republican State Representatives ignored the party platform. How did your Representative vote? Here is a link to the vote. Note voting “Present” or not voting are additional ways to try to kill a bill.
After HB1371 was defeated, Senator Jonathan Dismang filed SB680 which was even less ambitious than the first bill. SB680 was limited to $2 million which helps only a maximum of 400 children from low-income families.[ii]
NOTE: The state ended the fiscal year with a surplus of $1.6 BILLION.
Senator Dismang’s SB680 passed. While it doesn’t help many families, it helps some. No Arkansas State Senate Republican voted against the bill, but one Republican Senator voted present and one Republican Senator didn’t cast a vote and both those actions work against a bill. But don’t worry, neither Senator will be back in 2023.
In the House of Representatives SB680 barely passed despite the Republican supermajority. The bill passed with only 52 votes, which means it passed with only one vote to spare. The low vote means many Republican State Representatives did not support the bill by voting “No,” voting “Present,” or not voting. (Use this link to see how your State Representative voted.)
Some of the Republican Representatives who did not support even a small step toward school choice have opponents in the November election, BUT letting the Democrat win is much worse because the Democrats definitely oppose school choice.
Tell your Republican candidates for Arkansas Senate and House of Representatives you expect them to support the Republican promise for school choice for all families!
If you don’t speak up the only ones they will hear from will be left wing voices in education associations who are already protecting transgender indoctrination and the racist Critical Race Theory.
[i] The sentence in bold was added to the 2022 platform
[ii] Helping a maximum of 400 children is based on an assumption of scholarships of $5,000.