If you’ve been following this big, beautiful experiment called Arkansas Strong, you will already know how I feel about the policy scam of our time known as vouchers. Vouchers, education freedom accounts, or whatever their big-lobby peddlers want to call them, are the biggest threat to the future of our public schools. In fact the danger vouchers pose to our beloved rural communities like mine — tiny towns tucked into the Ozark mountains or nestled among the Mississippi Delta — is what brought so many of us together. This collective movement we have built together is based on one thing, which is a fierce love for our Arkansas kids.

In Matthew 10, Jesus warns his disciples of the hostility that lies ahead of their commissioned work. In verse 16, Jesus says,

“I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Wolves are ferocious, violent creatures that prey on sheep. Jesus knew his disciples needed galvanizing and specific instruction to be on guard — sharp and clever like snakes. But He also knew to instruct His twelve to remain steadfast in their purity of heart. What seems like a contradiction, snakes vs doves, is Jesus guiding His followers to be savvy of the traps laid before them but exhorting them to never forget their true purpose.

Like many of Arkansas Strong’s followers, I’m an educator. That fierce love for Arkansas kids is our purpose, and we must be awake and attentive to the traps laid before us as public school advocates. Vouchers are wolves in sheep’s clothing; proponents of voucher programs masquerade their snake oil as the savior of education. But we know it’s a scheme, a trap set for hundreds of thousands of rural students to be harmed by a policy that’s not made for them. Instead, these voucher programs undeniably funnel public tax money to families that can already afford a choice for their kids. We do not need this rip-off here in Arkansas.

It’s time for patriotic Arkansans, we who believe in the American Dream, to stand together and stand strong for Arkansas children. We will be shrewd like serpents and innocent like doves. We will stand up and fight for our public schools, and we will do this because we are rooted in faith, hope, and love for all Arkansas kids.

Arkansas Strong in Education is a resource for public school advocates to become shrewd like serpents in public education policy. Please use these materials to educate and equip yourself and others who believe in standing up for public schools.

Arkansas Strong also has several pieces on first-person experiences from public educators. We recommend taking time to read through these poignant stories and hope you will find empathy and shared community with these authors. May we suggest beginning with “My turn to speak: a rural teacher lends her voice to the voucher debate.