Privatizing Public Education, The War Of Words

What do you think? Is public education under attack?

There’s been a lot of work done on the part of DeVos supporters and others who want to privatize public education to persuade the everyday parent, citizen, voter that there are great positives for them and their students in a privatized system.

Data doesn’t support their argument, so they have resorted to a war of words.

By now, many of us know politics is a lot about the messaging. It’s no different from any other marketing campaign, such as cigarettes and cigarette products. We talked about this in our SJK July post

“Voucher supporters have been working hard for years to make a case for why vouchers are good including now referring to them as a “school choice,” as seen in this article.   A “study” to claim it promotes economic development…this is sort of like Philip Morris (cigarette manufacturer) sponsoring a study to support their claims: “produces 90-95% less harmful chemicals than traditional cigarettes…”

“When you buy an e-cig cartridge, you can get differing amounts of nicotine (or none at all). You can also purchase flavored liquids such as chocolate, strawberry, and mint.”

This recent opinion piece by Ross Izard the senior education policy analyst at the Independence Institute…in The Hill ( provides a lot of insight on how AFP/Koch Bro., DeVos, ALEC and other voucher/ESA supporters plan to win the war around “Choice”.

Here are some of the many different terms Izard uses to make his case. This language will be used a lot in the sale of vouchers and other tools (such as ESAs) to privatize public ed.

  • “educational choice”
  • “choice-minded majorities”
  • “parental choice”
  • “educational freedom”
  • “full-spectrum parental choice”
  • “Choice Scholarship Program”
  • “Blaine clauses… Rooted deeply in a history of religious suppression”
  • “Aid is provided to parents who, in turn, select the schools they believe to be right for their children”
  • “anti-choice majority”
  • “religious discrimination”
  •  “parental choice created by the Choice Scholarship Program”

All these terms, on the surface, seem so reasonable and make so much sense (especially for folks who don’t follow public education issues). But it isn’t until you read between the lines, learn about how the legislation is written, or hear the actual stories of the effects of similar programs in other states and school districts that you see how these are all just marketing terms used to persuade people to think positive of something that’s really just a bad idea – just like the marketing campaigns around e-cigs.

Chances are, if you are reading this, you already know a lot of what we are sharing and figure if you know it, it’s well known information. But don’t be fooled – based on the results from a recent polling by Education Next, the war of words by the Voucher supporters is gaining ground.

“Support for charter schools seems to have declined, but so has opposition to vouchers, tax-credits and other tools for privatizing public education.”

“Tax credits continue to command the highest level of support among all choice proposals.” (Every year for the past few years, we see some Republican legislators in Colorado bring bills in support of Tax Credits.)

ESAs also known as Education Savings Accounts ≠ 529 College Savings Plan, and will play a big role by Voucher supporters in the war of words to privatize our public schools.

529 Savings Plan:

“These state-sponsored college savings plans were established by the federal government in Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code to encourage families to save more for college. They have important benefits you can’t get from other savings plans, making them one of the best ways to save for college…”

If you Google “Education Savings Accounts”, some of the results include:

 Education Savings Account (ESA) – Wells Fargo…/education-savings-account

Wells Fargo Advisors has Education Savings Accounts for funding education expenses.

Education Savings Account: Schwab Brokerage: Educational ……/educational_savings_account

An Education Savings Account can supplement a 529 College Savings Plan and help you pay for education expenses from kindergarten through college.

No wonder people don’t know what these are – is it possible the confusion is intentional?

On the ALEC website:

“The Education Savings Account Act allows parents to use the funds that would have been allocated to their child at their resident school district for an education program of the parents’ choosing.”

What do Education Savings Accounts really do?   ESAs take public education dollars (taxpayer dollars) and distributes them directly to students/parents/families, but requires NO accountability for how the dollars are spent. And remember, those dollars aren’t just what one individual paid in, they include the tax dollars paid by others. They can be put toward private school tuition, tutors, books, “programs”; they can be banked in an account or spent any way the recipient wants with little to no accountability. These funds are pulled from the dollars that would have gone into funding ALL our public schools.   In a world where we already underfund our public schools, what does this mean for those students still attending public schools that are now shorted that much more?

This summer Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP -Koch Brothers) announced it would be spending $200,000 on promoting and “educating” Coloradoans on school choice.

The Denver Post also wrote about Koch Brothers and AFP’s efforts in Colorado Springs

“…volunteers spent hours making calls to educate voters about a new initiative that will allow parents to use taxpayer dollars to send children to private schools.

“The phone calls to middle-of-the-road voters and presentation to donors in Colorado last week were part of the Koch network’s six-figure campaign to promote school choice and education savings accounts, or ESAs.”

We are asking you all to remember this is a war of words. It only works if we let it. It only works if we don’t correct misuse of these common terms.   It only works if we don’t push our candidates to clarify – when they announce they “support choice,” do they support private school choice or public school choice. It only works if we don’t demand clarification and state clearly what we expect. And when bad legislation is introduced at our state capitol, we need to speak up loudly and often.

As always, Support Jeffco Kids is happy to do the research and bring this information to you. But we need your help. We need you to be engaged and share this information. And, please don’t forget, your support – as volunteers and financially – is vital to our work.

Our mission is to educate the Jeffco Community on the importance of supporting public education for ALL kids in Jeffco. inform the community on current events, and to support a school board that understands the importance of educating all 86,000 students in Jeffco.

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