Educators: There are higher priorities for improving public schools than voucher schemes

CONTACT: Liz Picone, Arkansas Education Association

Vouchers take scarce funding from public schools and give it to unaccountable private schools

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R-Arkansas) introduced her omnibus education reform package Wednesday, called the Arkansas LEARNS plan, that would increase teachers’ salaries in exchange for implementing unpopular and destructive voucher schemes.

The following statement can be attributed to Arkansas Education Association President Carol B. Fleming:

“Every student deserves a well-rounded curriculum that will nurture imagination and a desire to learn. This mission is what Arkansas educators wake up every day working for. Spending money on voucher programs means denying students the opportunities they deserve in their neighborhood public schools. When our leaders choose to fund voucher programs, they pick and choose which children can pursue their dreams. Educators, parents, guardians, and students should be very concerned about the proposal’s impact.

“Vouchers take scarce funding away from public schools and give it to private schools that are unaccountable to the public. Arkansas needs to focus on investing in our public schools — where 90 percent of our children go — instead of diverting money from them to give to the 10 percent who attend private schools. By taking funding away for public schools, vouchers will harm rural communities, where public schools are popular and remain the only option for most students.

“The Arkansas Education Association has long been a leader in advocating for increasing the salaries of Arkansas’ hardworking and dedicated teachers to help us recruit and retain high-quality educators in every classroom. While we’re encouraged to see this issue of low teacher pay addressed after years of our advocacy, we urge the Arkansas state legislature to do so without harming students through voucher schemes.

“There are higher priorities for improving public schools. If we’re serious about every child’s future, let’s get serious about doing what works. And what works is resourcing our neighborhood public schools so that all students have inviting classrooms, a well-rounded curriculum, class sizes that are small enough for one-on-one attention, and support services such as health care, nutrition, and after-school programs for students who need them.”