Secret Recording? Oh My!

And, now as the world turns, here’s the latest “fake news” story featuring none other than yours truly.

The media, Twitter, and school choice opponents erupted this week over a so-called secret recording the Arizona Republic obtained of me speaking to a group of Christian school leaders in February of 2017 regarding legislation to expand eligibility for the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program.

The headline at the top of the front page: “Key lobbyist opposed oversight for state voucher-style program.” Then the Republic’s opinion columnist used the story to allege the reason for the ESA law was profitability. What a joke.

Another reporter alleged the story showed private schools want to rake in the money.

You don’t want to know the other ugly comments on Twitter about how evil I am. Or the one comment alleging that Christian schools are embezzling money.

Oh the lengths some will go to attack CAP, me personally, and our partners like you.

Read the story here.

Anything I’ve said in this recording I’ve said in public for years.

The Arizona Republic seized on this recording as an opportunity to launch an unwarranted attack on me personally and on CAP in an attempt to discredit the entire school choice community. The story purposefully mischaracterizes what I actually said on the recording.
Why publish a story about a recording that’s over a year old? To try to influence voters to support the Save our Schools Prop 305 ballot measure. In November, Arizona voters will decide whether or not last year’s expansion of ESA eligibility will go into effect.
To set the record straight on my position as I have stated repeatedly for years:

  • Center for Arizona Policy supports broad opportunities for parents to choose the education best meeting their children’s needs – whether that is district, charter, homeschool, online, or private schools. The decision is between parents and God. It’s not for us to make.
  • For over 25 years, I have supported school choice as long as it did not lead to government regulation of private schools and their students.
  • I have supported significant financial accountability provisions in all the school choice programs.
  • I have opposed state-mandated testing of students in private schools. Testing ultimately dictates curriculum for schools. Private school autonomy depends on the school being able to set the curriculum and the testing.
  • In a compromise, I supported the ESA bill last year with its testing component. The bill would require students with an ESA to take a norm-referenced test. The compromise struck the appropriate balance between ensuring accountability and maintaining private school autonomy.
  • Private schools primarily are accountable to parents. If the school is not performing to academic standards, the parents will go elsewhere.
  • The allegation that private schools are making a profit or receiving a financial benefit is so far from the truth. The amount of the ESA scholarship is less than what the state allocates for a public or charter school student. While expanded eligibility of the ESA program would enable some schools to go into new communities and underserved areas, most private schools still would need additional funding.

No surprise that the media relished the idea of exposing a supposedly secret recording of my comments. I’m well aware anything I say or write in public or private is subject to someone taking some statement meant for good and twisting it into something evil.

However, I didn’t expect that someone on a conference call with Christian school leaders would leak a recording of that strategy discussion a year later.

Know that our advocacy for all parents to have the opportunity to send their children to the school best meeting their needs continues unabated and stronger than ever. 


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