Home > Uncategorized > GOP’s Latest Gambit: Equity in Funding Schools = Socialism

GOP’s Latest Gambit: Equity in Funding Schools = Socialism

December 4, 2018

Diane Ravitch today featured an extended quote from a post by Arizona State School Board Association President and retired USAF officer Linda Lyon who described a question raised at a recent public forum she attended:

I was recently in a public forum on education when a school board member asked me whether my call to address inequities in our schools was a call for the “redistribution of wealth”.

The phrase “redistribution of wealth” is seen by conservatives is a dog whistle for “socialism”, whereby the government confiscates money in the form of taxes from hard-working God-fearing individuals and gives it to undeserving lazy individuals who choose to stay home, watch TV, and eat snack foods purchased with food stamps.

Ms. Lyon goes on to describe how redistribution REALLY works in her home state:

I offer that the redistribution of wealth can also flow the other way as with the privatization of our public schools. Those who already “have” are redistributing the “wealth” of those who “have not”.They do this by encouraging the siphoning of taxpayer monies from our district public schools, for charters, home and private schools. Once slated for the education of all, our hard-earned tax dollars are now increasingly available to offset costs for those already more advantaged.

In Arizona, approximately 60% of our one million public K-12 students qualify for the free and reduced price lunch program, with over 1,000 schools having over 50% of their students qualifying. As you might guess, schools with the highest number of students qualifying for “free and reduced” are located in higher poverty areas and with few exceptions, have lower school letter grades. Zip code it turns out, is an excellent predictor (irrespective of other factors) of school letter grade. According to a study by the Arizona Partnership for Healthy Communities, “Your ZIP code is more important to your health than your genetic code” and a life-expectancy map for Phoenix released three years ago, “found life expectancy gaps as high as 14 years among ZIP codes.”

But, as Ms. Lyon notes earlier in her post, this is in keeping with the ethos of the GOP who until this year dominated state politics:

Social scientist researcher Brené Brown believes it is because of the “scarcity” worldview held by Republicans/conservatives. “The opposite of scarcity is not abundance” she writes, “It’s enough.”Basically, “they believe that the more people they exclude from “having”, the more is available to them.” And, in this binary way of thinking, the world is very black and white (pun sort of intended), e.g., if you aren’t a success, you’re a failure, and should be excluded.

And the plutocratic profiteers are very happy to reinforce the scarcity worldview and use it to help them inflate their bottom line by privatizing public education and other government services…. and Arizona— depending on your perspective— is either on the cutting edge of this privatization movement or a canary in a coal mine:

This shift of taxpayer dollars from public to private hands is clearly a redistribution of wealth. Worst of all, in Arizona, it is a redistribution of wealth with little to no accountability nor transparency. Private, parochial and home schools are not required to provide the public information on their return on investment. And make no mistake, this investment is significant and continues to grow. In 2017 alone, taxpayer dollars diverted from district schools to private school options, amounted to close to $300 million. About $160 million of this, from corporate and personal tax credits with the other $130 million from vouchers. All told, according to the Payson Roundup, “vouchers have diverted more than $1 billion in taxpayer money to private schools. These dollars could have instead, gone into the general fund to ensure the vast majority of Arizona students were better served.

But HAD those dollars gone into the general fund, they would have been “redistributed” based on a funding formula intended to provide an equal opportunity for all children to succeed in school.

Which brings me to an important and often overlooked point: withholding funds from equalization formulas does nothing to harm the presumably indolent parents who want to freeload off those who work hard: it penalizes their children. And when the day comes that their children realize that a minority of relatively affluent taxpayers held them back by withholding money for their schools, a change might happen. I hope the change happens in the context of the ballot box and not through collective action like we are witnessing in France.


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