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Week in Review: Courageous Mothers Fighting for Educational Freedom

January 11, 2020

Imagine finally getting your child the education they deserve, and then helplessly watching the government take it all away. That’s exactly what happened for a group of parents in Arizona, and this week the Goldwater Institute sued the state to defend their rights in court.

The mothers we represent have something in common: public schools weren’t working for their special needs children, so they turned to Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program. Thanks to ESAs, they could get the educational services their children so desperately needed. 

But then the Arizona Department of Education began withholding funds from families, threatening to remove them from the program, and constantly changing its own rules.

One of the children we represent is so severely autistic that he was unable to defend himself when two other kids bullied and sexually assaulted him when he attended a public school before entering the ESA program. Another, also autistic, battles with anxiety so severe that she once secluded herself from friends and didn’t want to leave her home.

ESAs offered these children and their parents a lifeline. The Arizona Department of Education is illegally ripping that lifeline from their hands. The Goldwater Institute is proud to be fighting on their behalf. Read more about their story here.

America’s Founding Fathers Meant What They Said: “All Men Are Created Equal”

Recent months have seen a lot of discussion over the relationship between America’s founding and the awful institution of slavery. According to some writers, the Founding Fathers took a pro-slavery position and drafted the Constitution with the intention of protecting slavery on a permanent basis. Others take a more moderate view: The Founders may not have been pro-slavery, but they also didn’t oppose it, and they never intended, when they wrote the Declaration of Independence, that the phrase “all men are created equal” would include black Americans. Instead, it was abolitionists in the 19th century who began re-interpreting the Declaration as an anti-slavery document.

In the new online journal The Dispatch, Goldwater Institute Vice President for Litigation Timothy Sandefur argues that this, too, is wrong. The Declaration of Independence meant just what it said—and that’s why slavery’s defenders in the years before the Civil War, were so eager to repudiate it outright or to twist or ignore its words. Read more on the In Defense of Liberty blog.

School Safety in 2020: What Events from the Last Decade Taught Us about K-12 Discipline

Last year, police arrested a sixth grade student at DeGrazia Elementary School in southern Arizona’s Marana Unified School District. Another student accused the first child of threatening to “shoot up” the school. School officials wrote a letter to families and said “there is no threat against our school” (emphasis in the original), but the incident reveals the complex contours of the student discipline debate in public schools around the country. 

Questions abound: If there was “no threat” against the school, why was such a young student arrested instead of sanctioned a different way—say, suspension? Law enforcement officers released the student to his parents after the arrest, but should the student be allowed back to the same school?

In a two-part series of articles, Goldwater Institute Senior Fellow Jonathan Butcher explains the mistakes from failed school safety policies promulgated from Washington and how administrative requirements that limit educators’ ability to suspend or expel students put other children in danger. Read more here.



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