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RUBEN GALLEGO ae Congress of the United States ese House of Representatives over ors Washington, BC 20515-0307 echt es March 21, 2019 ‘The Honorable Betsy DeVos Secretary of Education U.S. Department of Education 400 Maryland Avenue, SW Washington, D.C. 20202 Dear Secretary DeVos: I write to share my concerns about your recently proposed Education Freedom Scholarship plan, which would funnel $5 billion into state school voucher systems. This school privatization scheme is a near-carbon copy of the failed policies that have consistently caused Arizona’s public schools to rank in the bottom five in the nation. That is why I strongly oppose your proposed plan and urge you and the Department to reconsider how best to support students, teachers, and families across the country. ‘Much like Arizona’s student tuition tax credit and Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) voucher programs, your Education Freedom Scholarship (EFS) plan would indirectly funnel public money into private schools. Voucher schemes like the one you propose are bad for public schools and have hurt Arizona students by failing to improve outcomes, costing the state 75% more per student than traditional publie schoo! funding, and creating a system ripe for abuse. ‘The Arizona voucher programs on which your policy is modeled have cemented our state as 1" in the nation for “school choice,” but have coincided with a decline in the performance of our public schools, which are ranked as the 5" worst in the country, last in student-to-teacher ratio, and in the bottom 30% for reading and math test scores. This is not a coincidence. Programs like your proposed EFS scholarship shrink and divert revenue streams that could be used to fund public education. They also make it harder to attract and retain qualified public school teachers, a factor that has contributed to the crisis-level teacher shortage in Arizona. The evidence is clear: 25 years of “school choice” has not delivered additional benefit to the vast majority of Arizona’s 1.1 million public school students. Inadequate accountability also makes tax credit voucher schemes like yours predisposed to waste and abuse. Unlike public schools, which are held directly accountable for every dollar of public funds they receive, the private schools benefitting from your giveaway lack local oversight or mechanisms to determine whether federally-subsidized money is being used effectively to educate students. Further, in Arizona, taxpayers have no idea whether voucher programs are helping the students who received them, or even whether families use the funds to attend quality schools. Finally, Arizona’s voucher schemes have enabled policymakers, private companies, and voucher organizations to enrich themselves with public funds using loopholes built in to proposals like yours. Arizona’s and America’s students deserve better. ‘Nationally, almost $2 billion per year is wasted on voucher programs that cost taxpayers more money and yield fewer results than funds used for public school programs actually proven to work. You’ ve claimed that your new $5 billion voucher plan doesn’t directly take money from public schools. But your Department’s 2020 budget plan does, proposing to slash education funding by $8.8 billion. Instead of spending $5 billion on tax credits for private education, I suggest your Department invest in teacher support funding, after school learning programs, academic enrichment grants or any of the other critical programs that would be gutted by billions of dollars in your proposal. In the 2018 election, a statewide ballot proposition to universalize Arizona’s school vouchers was overwhelmingly rejected by voters. Arizonan and American families know that students deserve significant and sustained investment in their future, not education privatization schemes. I therefore urge you to withdraw your deeply harmful school voucher program proposal. Sincerely, auld. Ruben Gallego Member of Congress