Voucher bills, teacher pay, and making sure the poor stay poor….

Christine Marsh Education, Education Policy

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We just created a system in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Keep these numbers in mind: $5000 for more families to spend on private schools and $180 as a raise for teachers.

A universal expansion of vouchers passed through both chambers yesterday, and I am just this side of heartbroken.

Let’s put our state’s priorities in perspective: Parents will get roughly $5000 per year/per child to spend on their children’s private education. The money will come from the general fund, even though children who leave more affluent districts would otherwise have their education paid for by local revenue streams. Districts in less affluent areas are the ones that rely on the state’s general fund. Those districts also have proportionately fewer students who can make use of vouchers, because $5000 will only pay full tuition at roughly 140 private schools in the entire state. This means that student from a low-socio-economic family would have to come up with the difference between the $5000 and the school’s tuition. Remember…23% of our children live in poverty ($24,000 per year for a family of four), and another 17% hover right above the poverty line. Those families are obviously not going to have that additional money—especially in light of cuts to TANF and other services for our families in poverty.

The universal voucher system means that children who remain in public schools (which will disproportionately be our poorest kids) will have less funding.

Meanwhile, we are facing a teacher-shortage of crisis proportions, and the governor’s solution to that is a .04% raise, which is about $180 a year, which is less than $1 a day. The state’s leaders are making sure that teachers stay relatively poor, which means that many teachers have decided they simply won’t be teachers and—thus—not poor.

The voucher bills will exacerbate the teacher shortage. It will do so for a few reasons: 1) there will simply be less money in the general fund for education; 2) the whole thing is demoralizing and insulting for teachers.

I want to elaborate on #2: Yesterday’s voucher-vote tells teachers that they are not the priority in this state. Our students are also not a priority—unless they are kids who disproportionately come from families of relative affluence.

Why are teachers even staying in this profession? Our state’s leaders’ actions reveal that we are not valued. We are not respected.

It’s so ironic to me, because—as a teacher—I know that the most important factor in my classroom is how valued and respected my students feel. All good teachers know this. It doesn’t matter if I know Heart of Darkness as well as (or better) than any teacher in the nation if my students don’t feel valued.

The path into a student’s mind is through his heart. I can only reach his mind if I’ve also reached his heart.

Why is this basic concept so lost on our state’s leaders?


Christine Porter Marsh

Scottsdale, Arizona

My favorite thing about teaching is watching the lights go on in students’ eyes, watching them getting passionate about traditionally boring things like reading and writing well. This is why I keep coming back. I am in my 24th year of teaching in the same high school from which I graduated, and I still feel like it’s the best job in the world.

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  • Gary Sedlacek

    Sounds like your priority is your own pay. You had me until you brought up the “poor teacher” argument…That’s when I stopped listening.

    • Christine Porter Marsh

      Thanks for the comment. My concern is definitely not my own pay, but the teacher shortage is very much my concern. We can’t recruit and retain enough teachers, and that has a significant impact on our state’s students.

  • Danielle Brown

    Thanks for sharing your sentiments and knowledge about ESAs. It’s important that we don’t allow this to defeat us, and reminds us that we have to ensure we raise our voices, educate our legislators, friends, families, & stakeholders about the effects of decisions. Thank you for raising your voice & engaging others. As a society we should do right by all students, not a select group of students. If we value students, we need to ensure our actions match our words.

  • Mike Vargas

    After sitting in more than enough senate and house meetings this term, I see exactly where the problem lies. They have no idea. The only people talking to them from the public schools is a hand full of union reps. 80% of the people in their ear are people with agendas to make school vouchers work for them. Schools that turn a profit and in some cases for the very people making these decisions. It took a lot of courage to go to the governors office this week and tell him face to face. A tip of my hat to all of you for doing that. I just don’t understand why they wont help us. I feel like Greed is winning right now in very facet of our society, and though I am all for a capitalist society, education must remain universal and accessible to all if we are to continue as a true democracy.

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