by Brian Washington
An educator in Arizona is drawing a comparison between the state contracts to privatize prisons and its destructive voucher programs that divert taxpayer money into private and religious schools.
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In a column for a local newspaper, guest commentator Mike McClellan said the state’s efforts to privatize prisons and its voucher programs, including the newest– known as the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts–have one thing in common– no accountability to the public.
“Nope, these (private and religious) schools get the money with no strings attached, not even academic accountability,” wrote McClellan, who is also a member of the Arizona Education Association, which represents current and retired teachers and education support professionals statewide.
We don’t know how the kids getting the vouchers test in private schools; no state testing is required of them. We don’t know where that money goes when it is sent to private schools; no auditing is required of them.
He says the companies that run private prisons for the state have the same setup–no accountability. According to McClellan, private prisons house about one-sixth of the state’s inmate population. However, taxpayers have no information on how these privately run prisons compare to those run by the state. That’s because in 2012 state lawmakers eliminated requirements for cost comparisons–even though earlier studies showed state-run prisons got the job done at a lower cost to taxpayers.
“State-mandated audits showed just that, wrote McClellan. “Corrections Department studies from 2008-2010 reveal that it was cheaper to house inmates in state-run medium correction facilities than it was to put them up in private prisons.”
However, McClellan’s piece leaves out another similarity that’s important for voters and taxpayers to know. Arizona’s voucher program and private prison contracts are being pushed by politicians who, instead of carrying out the will of the people they supposedly represent, have pledged their support to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the profit-driven corporations and ideologically motivated foundations and think tanks that craft its policies and model legislation.
It’s time to show these ALEC-led politicians that we put them in office to represent our interests. Click here to sign the petition to tell ALEC to stop cashing in on our kids!