Educational Opportunity and the Widow’s Mite

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Over at Chamber Business News today I discuss the above map from the indespensible Garrett Archer showing that areas with large Native American populations alone voted yes on Proposition 305 (marked green). They did so despite the fact that they were already included in the ESA population and despite the fact that a credible case could be made that it was not in their own selfish interest to vote yes. There is a lesson for the rest of us in all of this.

Native Americans were not voting their self-interest in supporting ESA expansion. They were already included in ESA eligibility. Because “No” prevailed, the ESA program reverted to the pre-expansion program, an annual cap on the number of new participants cycles off in 2019. If “Yes” had prevailed an overall cap would have come into effect, and this could have limited Native American participation absent further action. Every tribal community residing student is eligible to participate in the ESA. Nevertheless, it was they that voted “Yes” to expand eligibility- why?

We can’t be sure, but perhaps these communities are better acquainted with the desperation that parents feel when their child is failing to flourish in a school. Perhaps it is more obvious from the tribal community areas that while open enrollment and charter schools are good things, they aren’t a solution for everyone. We parents in Maricopa County have a vast array of district, charter, magnet and private school options. We may have made the mistake of taking choice for granted. It may be the case that other communities have a better grounding in just how vital and precious a thing it is for families to have a chance to find a school that fits their child’s needs and aspirations.

Many of us are very fortunate with regards to the education of our children. We carefully purchase our homes with an eye to attendance boundaries. We use open enrollment, we consider magnet schools, and/or enroll our children in charter schools. Those of us fortunate enough to live in this world would do well to remember that the communities with the fewest of these opportunities voted to expand opportunity further at some risk to themselves.

A Navajo proverb holds “Always assume your guest is tired, cold and hungry, and act accordingly.” Like the widow and her mite, Arizona’s Native American communities offered what little that they had and revealed once again the great nobility of their spirit. This is an example to which all Arizonans should aspire. We should not hoard opportunity, even if it superficially seems to our own advantage to do so. Rather we should provide opportunity to everyone.

3 Responses to Educational Opportunity and the Widow’s Mite

  1. Greg Forster says:

    Did someone say widow’s mite?

    Actually there is an argument it’s in the interest of voters who already have ESAs to vote for their expansion in order to 1) strengthen the public normativity of the program and 2) expand the coalition to defend it. But the lesson of that is not that everything is selfish egoism; the lesson of that is that motives are always mixed and it’s therefore of limited value to speculate about which motive “really” motivates a given voter or group.

  2. matthewladner says:

    Yup my ESP powers faded out during the 1990s. Doc said something about too much grunge music played at high volumes, I’m not sure what happened. From an ability to participate standpoint however No worked dandy for reservation residents-they now have complete access to the program without any sort of cap. Meanwhile I get to watch people drop their kids off at charter schools with “No on 305” bumper stickers on their cars wondering where their concern with “draining money” went when it came to their own children.

  3. […] Source: Educational Opportunity and the Widow’s Mite | Jay P. Greene’s Blog […]

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