ESA Hearing Highlights Hypocrisy

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The November 14 hearing involving the House Ad Hoc Study Committee on Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Governance and Oversight has come and gone. As a result of this hearing, there will be debates and conflicting opinions on the worth and cost of universal empowerment scholarship accounts for months to come.

One undeniable and undebatable point that emerged from this hearing is the hypocrisy shown by the two Democrat house members in this panel, Judy Schwiebert and Nancy Gutierrez, regarding the Democrat position on ESA’s.

Throughout the hearing, they took every opportunity to demonize the current ESA program, while claiming to be in favor of school choice for parents and students.

This hypocrisy was clearly illustrated by Schwiebert in her closing remarks when she stated that she is a proud supporter of school choice, as long as it is a government school. This statement is analogous to one attributed to Henry Ford regarding his Model T car, “Any color the customer wants, as long as it’s black”.

That sentiment was echoed by Gutierrez in her closing remarks when she stated that there are two issues here, one is the original intent, namely helping at risk students, and the other is the universal use of ESA’s. She went on to claim absolute support for the former, but opposition to the latter.

The fact is that Democrats have never been in favor of school choice, and have voted consistently against the implementation and/or expansion of the ESA program, regardless of what benefit may be derived from it. This was true in 2011 when the first ESA bill was voted on, and it was true with every vote taken prior to the 2022 vote on ESA expansion to universal availability. Statements to the contrary are false and misleading.

Former Superintendent of public Instruction Diane Douglas has stated it very eloquently,

“In all my years in education I don’t recall ever hearing a Democrat, at any level, express support for any form of parental school choice as did Representatives Schwiebert and Gutierrez during the ESA Ad-Hoc hearing on Tuesday. In my opinion it seemed disingenuous at best. Regardless of the fact that statewide a majority of our children continue to be failing English Language and Math the Democrat answer has always been to disparage and eliminate school choice while endlessly throwing more money at our failing district schools.”

In other words, the Democrat opposition to parental school choice existed long before we had universal ESA’s. All this talk about accountability, frivolous spending, and bankrupting of the state is just a smoke screen. The true position of Democrats regarding school choice may be best illustrated, not by listening to their current rhetoric, but by looking at how they have voted over time. Note that all these votes were taken long before the 2022 expansion to universal availability.











2011 – SB1553


SENATE  = 21-7-2 NO = 7      YES = 0

2011 – SB1553


HOUSE   = 40-19-1 NO = 19    YES = 0

2014 – HB2150


SENATE  = 17-10-3 NO = 9      YES = 0

2014 – HB2150


HOUSE   = 38-18-4 NO = 18    YES = 3

2017 – SB1431


SENATE  = 16-13-1 NO = 12    YES = 0

2017 – SB1431


HOUSE   = 31-28-1 NO = 24    YES = 0

So much for the false statement that Democrats favor ESA’s as long as they help at-risk students, and oppose only the universal availability of them.