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Opinion | Stop falling for the “school choice” scam

“School choice” has been and always will be a scam that harms poor kids while propping up private and religious organizations with public money.

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Recently, at a legislative meeting, our state leaders indicated that they would allow a private business to take control of a multi-billion dollar management project without first ascertaining if the company had the necessary experience and without requiring the company to meet any standards or putting in place any means to monitor the company’s progress. 

APR has learned that the company in question has already failed to meet production deadlines and basic benchmarks in numerous other states, leading to the loss of billions of dollars and the failure of massive state programs, including programs directly tied to well-being and education of children. Additionally, the company has often relied on questionable business ties to various religious organizations to influence lawmakers, leading to numerous questions about the funneling of state tax dollars to church-run businesses. 

If you are outraged by this, well … you hate “school choice.” Because that’s what I just described. 

The biggest scam ever perpetrated by a politician, “school choice” is on its way to Alabama’s legislative agenda, as your ruling elite seek to once again find ways to funnel public tax dollars into paying for fancy things they’d like to have. In this case, they’d like you to subsidize their kid’s private school education at the top-tier, church-run academy, while the poor kids eat cake. 

For the life of me, I cannot fathom how we got to the point where this is seriously being considered – where politicians are posting on social media, under their real names, that they’re backing it. How in the world are y’all – and by that, I mean working people – not up in arms at the mere thought of some yahoo in a fancy suit coming along and sucking even more money out of your already-cash-strapped public school so they can give it to the private business/church where their kids are attending? 

That little breakdown I put up top, that’s 100 percent accurate. That is “school choice” in the proper context and with all of the flowery, BS language stripped away. 

Our lawmakers, like some in other states, are considering legislation that would send hundreds of millions of tax dollars – OUR money that we pay in for the good of the society where we live and work – to private businesses that don’t have to meet the same standards as public schools, that will not be monitored to the same degree as public schools, that will not be forced to uphold the same hiring practices (and background checks) as public schools and that will not be forced to undergo regular public audits like public schools. 

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And y’all are apparently just going along with it? 

Put that in literally any other context – prisons, roads, broadband, police and fire, human resources – and tell me you’d be OK with an unmonitored, untested and un-audited private business receiving a contract to do work in any of those fields. 

You wouldn’t. You’d be screaming bloody murder, and rightfully so. 

But because some schools that have been underfunded in relation to the impoverished communities they serve have historically performed poorly on the variety of state and federal testing (which ironically we wouldn’t require the private schools to complete), somehow y’all have been convinced that handing over tax dollars to these unmonitored, untested and un-audited private businesses is the way to go. 

It’s not. It’s a scam. 

It’s another in a long line of ploys from shady conmen who have spent their lives lusting after the billions of dollars just sitting in education budgets. They’ve dreamed of the day they could legally siphon that cash into the bank accounts of their friends and co-conspirators, as they leave the futures of poor kids everywhere lying in gutters. 

And that’s not hyperbole. Because in addition to being a scam, this is also the greatest attack on poor children in the history of this country. Black, white, brown and other – if it’s a child in a lower-middle class home or lesser, they’re getting screwed by “school choice.” 

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Because “school choice” doesn’t pay for transportation to school. And “school choice” doesn’t pay for free lunches. And “school choice” doesn’t cover lab fees and field trip fees and other fees. And “school choice” doesn’t pick up the tab for breakfast or cover athletics fees. 

Which means poor kids won’t get “school choice.” They’ll get the shaft, as usual. 

But don’t take my word for it, just do this: the next time a politician or an “advocate” launches into a screed about the benefits of “school choice,” ask them how a poor kid’s family will be able to afford to make up the difference between tuition and the tax break or how they’ll get the kid to school without a car or who’ll pay for gas or how the kid’s gonna eat or if the kid has to go to lab if he/she can’t pay the fees. 

You know the answer. We all know the answer. 

It’s a scam meant to screw over poor kids. 

If it wasn’t, “school choice” would mean actual choice – your child could attend ANY public school in the county, including city breakaway schools, and transportation would be provided to free- and reduced-lunch students. And preference for enrollment would be given to free- and reduced-lunch students, since we’re all very much aware that our impoverished students need the most help and benefit the most from better, more focused instruction. 

But see, that’s not what they want. They don’t want to help the kids who need it most. They don’t want to devote the required money and resources to the schools and communities that need it most, where it would be most beneficial. 

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They just want the money. 

Because it’s a scam.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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