#Oklaed Legislators are Sweet on ESA’s

According to this online article from Tech Times, candy maker Necco Inc. cranks out 10 to 14 million pounds of Sweethearts every year, which ends up being about 4.8 billion to 6.7 billion individual hearts!

This equates to approximately 14 to 20 hearts for every man, woman and child in America. To be completely honest, I consume my share and then some. I love sweets. Don’t judge me.

Candy hearts have not changed all that much since they were first made by confectioners Daniel and Oliver Chase 150 years ago  However, in keeping with the times, you can now order your own personalized candy hearts for special occasions like weddings, anniversaries, and birthdays.

In fact, some of our Oklahoma legislators recently placed an order for some special hearts to share their love of Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) with gullible constituents. The folks at the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) were happy to pick up the tab, of course. Here’s a sample:

This much is certain. A significant number of lawmakers in Oklahoma, including Governor Mary Fallin, are sweet on the idea of ESAs in our state.

As Mary espoused in last week’s State of the State Address, she’s not just 99% in favor of ESAs, she is 100% all the way!

Senator Clark Jolley (R-Edmond) and Representative Jason Nelson (R-OKC) have made passage of ESAs a key priority for this legislative session.

And Governor Fallin also made it clear her signing pen was ready:

“Senator Clark Jolley and Representative Jason Nelson have legislation on this issue. Send it to me and let’s give students and parents a better chance for educational success than they have today.”

Senator Jolley and Rep. Nelson are even taking their message to the people in the form of town halls and special press releases.

Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), published THIS slick 16-page special edition of their monthly “Perspectives” newsletter. To call this propaganda is a significant understatement.

Fallin, Jolley, and Nelson have made ESAs a priority despite the fact that only a small minority of Oklahoma citizens are even asking for ESAs. Does anyone really believe there are thousands of parents in high poverty neighborhoods of Oklahoma City and Tulsa contacting Republican legislators to support ESAs?

But here’s the problem. Those entities promoting educational choice across America have spent the last thirty years perfecting their rhetoric.

As I have written before, I think ESAs are a wolf in sheep’s clothing that will serve to reduce per pupil funding for our public schools while exacerbating the segregation of Oklahoma kids by race, ethnicity, and SES.

Whether they’re championing charter schools, vouchers or ESAs, school choice advocates prefer to frame the debate around the right of parents to send their child to a better-performing school. This is merely a smokescreen to divert attention away from what school choice is really about: the transfer of public money to the private sector without accountability or transparency.

Many school choice campaigns are bankrolled by a faction of incredibly wealthy conservative donors and political groups, including the Koch Brothers and ALEC. Their agenda is clear: to dismantle public education.

According to the 2015 PDK/Gallup poll, a whopping 70 percent of Americans oppose school vouchers.

This follows a pattern of public resistance to school vouchers going back 50 years.

When given a clear choice, voters across the United States have consistently opposed school vouchers. Between 1966 and 2000, state ballot initiatives to allow public funding for private schools were rejected 24 out of 25 times.

Americans see this for what it is: a privatization scheme that subsidizes tuition for students in private schools. And perhaps they are aware that there is no conclusive evidence that vouchers improve student achievement. The public is also not fooled by the often-repeated falsehood that vouchers are primarily benefiting disadvantaged students.

In Wisconsin and Indiana, where vouchers have expanded dramatically, promises that the programs would serve low-income students in failing schools didn’t last. This is an important lesson for Oklahoma.

“That tale quickly and methodically changed,” said Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association. By 2015, only 2 percent of participants [in the voucher program] had attended an ‘F’ public school.

The most expansive voucher program in America has become an entitlement program which, in large part, now benefits middle class families who always intended to send their children to private (mostly religious) schools and taxpayers are footing the growing bill,” Meredith said.

According to this 2012 article from Political Research Associates:

“This dismal record (of vouchers) led the pro-voucher strategists to re-brand the movement as ‘school choice’ and as beneficial to public schools. In 2002, Dick DeVos suggested to a Heritage Foundation audience that the school choice movement should conceal its conservative roots. He advised that ‘properly communicated, properly constructed, [school choice] can cut across a lot of historic boundaries, be they partisan, ethnic, or otherwise.”

Hence, the language of “vouchers” evolved to “Education Savings Accounts.”

DeVos continued:

“We need to be cautious about talking too much about these activities. Many of the activities and the political work that needs to go on will go on at the grass-roots. It will go on quietly and it will go on in the form that often politics is done – one person at a time, speaking to another person in privacy.”

This is precisely what is happening in the halls of our legislature now. ESA lobbyists and supportive lawmakers are working the phones, sending emails, and meeting with recalcitrant colleagues every day . . . working to change minds votes one at a time.

And I guarantee there is more being promised that just a few candy hearts.

This is a watershed issue for the state of Oklahoma. The momentum is on the side of the ESA advocates and we have a small window of opportunity to stall them again in the legislature. Please take a few minutes to share your views with your elected representatives. There can be no doubt that the folks from ALEC and OCPA are doing the same, EVERY day until they get this passed.

So must we.

Putting Old Wine in New BottlesSorry OCPA, We’re Not Going Away!
Recent posts