Hispanic moms tell how school vouchers are helping their children

Nov 28, 2017

School choice is becoming more common (and a lot less controversial) across the country.  The Seattle Times reported recently that in more than half the states, (30 states), parents can get a voucher or tax credit scholarship to send their children to private school if the local traditional public school is not working for them.

School vouchers place parents on an equal footing with school district employees, many of whom use their public salaries to pay tuition at private schools for their own children.  Executives at powerful teacher unions strongly oppose choice for others, even as many of their own members exercise school choice for themselves.

Vouchers and choice are a natural response to a public school system that often fails to hold administrators accountable for educating children.  In Arizona, for example, 258 schools are identified by the state as “D” or “F” schools for failing to educate children, yet school officials continue to assign children to them.  (In Washington state, officials have identified 365 failing schools.)  Arizona lawmakers solved this problem by offering parents voucher-like Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) with public funding, so parents can send their children to better private schools.

A little background.  In 2011 Arizona’s lawmakers gave families with students with special needs and circumstances an ESA, worth on average $11,500  to educate their children in a private school. The program at first served 3,350 students.  The program proved so popular with parents that in the spring of 2017, lawmakers passed a bill to grant choice to 30,000 students by 2022.

Within weeks the Arizona teachers union and the American Federation of Teachers spent large sums of money to put on the 2018 ballot an initiative in an effort to repeal this expansion and delaying its effect.  Union executives have made it clear they will do everything they can to prevent Arizona families from choosing a better school.

Yet thousands of families – not the rich, but often poor, immigrant working families – see school choice as a path to a better life.  Telemundo TV reports the stories of the Hispanic moms and their children who are fearful the union will take away their ESAs and school choice:  

Photo Credit: Telemundo TV 

Marian Azucena Madrigal lives in a small low-income apartment in Phoenix, Arizona with her three children. She immediately saw and acted upon the ESA opportunity for her three children. She enrolled them in a private school, expecting to get an ESA to pay tuition for each child.

She was devastated to discover the teachers union is trying to cancel this program, a program which means so much to her and to her children. She is currently receiving temporary scholarships from the private school, but she is worried and stressed her children will not be able to remain at this school. If the union succeeds in taking away her ESA, she may have to put her children back in the public school she was trying to leave.  Kim Martinez, American Federation for Children

Ramona Carrasco’s daughter, Byanca, has Downs syndrome. As Telemundo TV put it: “Byanca is the heart of the family Carrasco, so it broke Ramona’s heart when she saw that Byanca was not advancing in the public school.”

Photo credit: Telemundo TV

With the help of Arizona’s ESA program, Ramona enrolled Byanca in a private school. The change in Byanca has been dramatic:

“Since Byanca entered the ESA program, she has learned to speak. Before, she could only grunt. At her new school, Byanca learned how to make friends. Before, she would play at recess by herself. Byanca is now excelling in her spelling. Before, she couldn’t read or write.”  Kim Martinez, American Federation for Children

Ramona’s state-funded ESA has helped her pay for a school that taught her daughter Byanca to talk, spell, read and write. Marian’s ESA will help her educate her three children at a better private school, unless the teachers union succeeds at keeping her children captive in failing public schools.

Families deserve better. Washington officials could offer families assigned to failing public schools ESAs worth $13,000 each; that is the amount of money the state provides now on each child. Families with special needs children could receive ESAs of $18,000 each, the amount the state provides.

School choice is working today for families in Arizona and in dozens of states across the country.  ESAs and other forms of educational choice are popular with families because they open new learning opportunities for children.  In the same way, Washington state officials should open their minds, and their hearts, to letting families have access to the same opportunities.



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