Arizona’s Republican Governor Doug Ducey, in cooperation with the state’s Republican-controlled legislature, allocated $5 million in the state’s FY 2017 budget for three “freedom schools” at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona. The money will go to the U of A’s Center for the Philosophy of Freedom, ASU’s Center for Political Thought and Leadership, and ASU’s Center for the Study of Economic Liberty. These three schools were established with seed money from the Charles Koch Foundation, an organization that promotes a radical libertarian ideology. The billionaire Koch brothers provided millions in “dark money” support for Ducey’s 2014 election campaign.
According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, no other state has cut university funding more than Arizona since the Great Recession. Last year, for example, Ducey and the Legislature reduced state university funding by $99 million. This year’s budget restores just $32 million, but $5 million of it is earmarked for the so-called freedom schools – or about 15% of the increased funding.
Ducey’s spokesperson Daniel Scarpinato defended the earmark by saying the governor “believes it’s important that students in our university system are exposed to a broad range of viewpoints and academic views on a number of issues, including economics.”
Several Republican legislators also voiced their support. Representative Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, a former conservative radio talk show host, said the money represents “a wonderful opportunity” to fund conservative viewpoints, which he claims are lacking at the state’s universities.
But Arizona Republicans weren’t concerned about encouraging different viewpoints when the they passed HB 2281 in 2010. That law was used to stop Mexican-American studies classes from being taught in Tucson’s public schools. John Huppenthal, Arizona’s school superintendent at the time, helped get it passed because he claimed the classes taught Mexican-American students to resent Anglos.
If Republicans are so concerned about the quality of the information that’s being given to the state’s students, then why aren’t they concerned about what’s being taught at the freedom schools? Dr. William Boyes, for instance, the founding director of ASU’s Center for the Study of Economic Liberty, is advocating for the elimination of public schools. He gave a speech last fall in support of the School Sucks Project in which he rejected the belief held by most Americans that public schools are a foundation of our democracy. He called for the end of public schools, saying they are our biggest obstacle to greater personal and political liberty.
Furthermore, Dr. Boyes in an advocate of the Austrian School of economic thought, which is promoted by the Mises Institute. Austrian School economic theory advocates the concept of methodological individualism – that social phenomena result from the motivations and actions of individuals. It rejects the use of econometrics and macroeconomic analysis. Instead, it calls for the government to be dismembered so the free market can magically solve all problems.
If this doesn’t seem to make sense, that’s because it doesn’t. There aren’t any reputable economists that believe in it. But, not coincidentally, Austrian School economic theory can be used to justify a radical libertarian political ideology.
The FY 2018 state budget passed by Arizona Republicans gave another $2 million to the state’s “freedom schools” at the U of A and ASU. This was in addition to their ongoing $5 million annual appropriation. Republican Rep. Anthony Kern, who pushed for the funding, claimed the schools are needed to counteract the widespread “liberal indoctrination” that’s going on at the state’s universities.
The FY 2019 state budget passed by Arizona Republicans included another $2.5 million for the state’s “freedom schools.” This was in addition to the ongoing $5 million annual appropriation. Republican Sen. John Kavanagh said the money was needed to help balance “left-wing bias” at the state’s universities. The U of A and ASU will each receive $1 million more, and Northern Arizona University will get $500,000 to establish a new school there.
Total Appropriations to AZ Freedom Schools: $19.5 million