Who Does Huppenthal Serve?
The American Federation for Children, a right-wing anti-public education organization promoting private school vouchers, made a heavy investment in John Huppenthal back in 2010 when he was the Republican candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction.
That investment appears to be paying off.
Huppenthal ran as a publicly funded “Clean Elections” candidate to lead Arizona’s public school system. But the American Federation for Children, which is a partner organization of the non-profit Alliance for School Choice in Washington, D.C., poured $63,000 into radio ads during 2010 Arizona race through an independent expenditure campaign to help Huppenthal defeat Democrat Penny Kotterman.
Now Huppenthal is blatantly shilling for a massive campaign by the Alliance For School Choice and Arizona’s libertarian Goldwater Institute to drive students and taxpayer dollars out of public schools and into private schools. In a stunning scoop by KPNX-TV News reporter Brahm Resnik, Huppenthal admitted to recording a robo-call to 15,000 households urging parents to remove their children from public schools and put them in private schools “for free.”
The families who received the calls were directed to a website operated by the Goldwater Institute, Arizona’s most vocal and vehement opponent of public education. There they learned about Arizona’s newly expanded ‘empowerment scholarships,’ a back-door voucher program originally intended only for children with disabilities, but which may soon provide state funding for 60 percent of Arizona students to opt out of public schools.
The Arizona Senate and House are currently on track to approve Senate Bill 1236 and House Bill 2291 which will greatly extend the pool of students eligible for these private school vouchers and increase the household income threshold by 15 percent annually. This will be a devastating blow to already underfunded public schools in Arizona, which is apparently fine with Huppenthal.
Huppenthal’s robo-call was reportedly part of a $250,000 marketing effort by the Alliance for School Choice, the sister organization of the group that paid $63,000 to see that he got the job running Arizona schools.
The Alliance for School Choice and American Federation for Children have advanced their anti-public-school agenda through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is a conservative corporate bill mill that wines and dines lawmakers on retreats, drafts model legislation to introduce and has heavily influenced public policy in Arizona.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that John Huppenthal did not run to lead Arizona’s public school system, but to dismantle it from within, like a scene from the Manchurian Candidate. Arizona has a strong and proud tradition of public education that has endured despite persistent underfunding, and it is heartbreaking and outrageous to see it under a coordinated Trojan Horse attack by its own elected leader and his special interest benefactors.