Arizona’s Big Win for Public Schools, Church-State Separation

Edd Doerr

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On November 6, Arizonans voted sixty-five to thirty-five to crush an effort to expand the state’s tax-credit voucher plan to divert public funds to mostly church-run private schools. That makes it the thirtieth (!) state referendum between 1966 and 2018, from Massachusetts to California and from Florida to Alaska, in which millions of voters have shot down every effort, large or small, to compel taxpayers to support private schools by an average of two to one.

This landslide Arizona vote was clearly a serious setback for President Donald J. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and large numbers of federal and state Republican lawmakers.

These victories are important because diverting public funds to private schools (of which over 85 percent are sectarian indoctrination institutions that denigrate women’s rights and often science) is an attack on the religiously neutral public schools that serve 90 percent of the kids in the United States—and on the principle of church-state separation that safeguards everyone’s religious liberty. Further, tax support for the more than two dozen different brands of private schools (Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, evangelical, Methodist, Presbyterian, Jewish, Muslim, and so on) would fragment our school population along religious, ideological, ethnic, socioeconomic, and other lines while increasing school costs overall.

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