OP-ED: The Left’s New School Choice Playbook in Arkansas Serves As a National Warning
3 min read

OP-ED: The Left’s New School Choice Playbook in Arkansas Serves As a National Warning

Next Gen
May 5
3 min read

In 2023, Governor Sarah Sanders signed her signature achievement (thus far): universal school choice in Arkansas. This put the Land of Opportunity on the map and near the top of education reform. Finally, the education system would have real accountability, and parents could choose the school that fits their child the best—with the resources they need to make it a reality.

But what has transpired over the last 12 months has been nothing short of a scorched-earth effort by the radical Left to undo this transformational policy. Having tried and failed twice with head-on attacks, the Arkansas teacher’s union and their allies are trying something new this time in the form of a constitutional amendment. While they bill it under their same, tired mantra of “fairness,” the reality is that, if it becomes law, it will end education freedom in all forms for good and rip critical funding away from thousands of Arkansas families. And, if they succeed, you can bet they will take this same playbook to every other state they can.

There is a laundry list of problems with the proposal, which is currently being circulated for signatures. (If the threshold is met by July 5th, there’s a good chance it will be on the ballot).

  • It would create a new, largely undefined welfare program for families making almost $100,000 per year.
  • It would reopen the door to indoctrination and radical theories like Critical Race Theory (CRT) in Arkansas schools.
  • It would cement a blank check into the state constitution by requiring taxpayers to fund undefined programs that are “necessary” for “adequate education.”

However, perhaps most concerning is a seemingly benign provision requiring all private schools to meet accreditation and academic standards that apply to public schools if they accept taxpayer funding.

It just seems fair, right? Wrong.

To start, this presents serious concerns about religious liberty because private schools would be forced to teach things they may disagree with (like evolution, for example) and would also be unable to teach religious subjects.

There are also a host of practical concerns because public school regulations were written for, well, public schools—not private schools, homeschools, microschools, or any others. As such, there’s no way private schools could possibly comply.

Consider, for example, state requirements that government schools operate school districts, employ superintendents, and comply with state salary requirements, just to name a few. It’d be like requiring horse-drawn carriages to include power steering. These aren’t translatable or fulfillable requirements for private institutions, even if they were willing to try. But they can’t, and they won’t. And, of course, that’s intentional.

Then there’s the question of whether the government has any right to regulate private schools. It seems obvious that it does not, and if the government tried, it would destroy private schools, just like almost everything else it touches. (Have you checked your health insurance premiums lately? The government was supposed to fix those, too.)

Private schools are independent and autonomous by design. It’s what makes them appealing and effective. They can try different things and respond to their customers in ways that government schools never could. That’s the point.

So why does the Left want to regulate them out of the education freedom program entirely? Do they really value “fairness” that much?

The real answer is a lot more cynical: The Left will do anything within its means to stop education freedom from helping families because they know how much of a threat it poses to their grip on the next generation. If they can keep Arkansas kids trapped in failing schools, they can continue to fuel their school desk-to-welfare desk pipeline and perpetuate the Left’s power. They can continue to micromanage the lives of Arkansans and prolong the generational problems that have held us back for so long. And they can continue to indoctrinate our kids.

As always, it’s about power.

The supporters of this radical amendment are, ultimately, to coin a phrase, on the wrong side of history. As evidenced by their recent failures, the thousands of families already benefiting from education freedom, and consistent public support (particularly from parents), Arkansans are clearly ready to chart a different path. Unfortunately, the Left is not going to stop fighting to protect “the way we’ve always done things”—and they’re coming for your state next.

Nic Horton is the founder and CEO of Opportunity Arkansas, a nonpartisan policy organization committed to solving generational problems in the Land of Opportunity. To learn more, visit OpportunityArkansas.org.

This piece originally appeared at Townhall.com on May 4, 2024, to read the whole thing, click here.

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Image of the story authorNicholas Horton
Founder & CEO

Nic Horton is a native Arkansan and Founder & CEO of Opportunity Arkansas. He has spent more than a decade in the conservative movement as an expert on election, disability, tax, welfare, and workforce reform.

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