December 06, 2004
Is this the year for vouchers?

Some proponents of vouchers for private schools think 2005 may be their year in the Lege.

One lawmaker already is plotting ways to get school vouchers through the Legislature next year. Earlier this month, on the first day to file bills, Rep. Frank Corte, R-San Antonio, submitted a proposal for a pilot voucher program that would include the Houston and Cypress-Fairbanks districts.

Corte said he's also looking at a must-pass bill the reauthorization of the Texas Education Agency as a vehicle for his voucher program. Corte said that if his proposal, House Bill 12, gets stuck in committee, he's prepared to attach it as an amendment to the TEA sunset bill or another education or school finance bill.

"I will be looking at any legislation to see if it's something that fits in the same category," said Corte. "My staff has been looking at sunset for TEA."

The education agency bill will be one of the main pieces of legislation next session, particularly since it coincides with efforts to write a new education funding law.

"We're probably at a better position this term than any time before to try to bring (vouchers) to fruition," said Corte.


The TEA sunset bill likely will end up before a House-Senate conference committee, which will settle any differences passed by the separate chambers. If vouchers are added to the bill in that committee, it could hold the education agency hostage because conference committee reports cannot be changed on the House or Senate floors; they must be voted up or down.

"If they get into playing that kind of chicken, we'll play," said Richard Kouri, a lobbyist for the Texas State Teachers Association.


Corte has had some success in getting controversial legislation through. Last session, he passed a bill requiring a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions.

I think vouchers are a bad idea, but I have to admit I'm a little surprised that they haven't already been implemented somewhere in Texas. There's a lot of juice behind them, mostly coming from the Governor's office. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst warned against bringing a voucher bill up in the Senate during the laughable school finance special session earlier this year; I don't know if he'll be so reluctant during a full session. It should be a big fight no matter what.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 06, 2004 to That's our Lege | TrackBack

I'm lukewarm on the voucher idea. I'd be totally opposed to it if I thought public schools were being held sufficiently responsible for explaining why they are receiving more funding per student, adjusted for inflation, than *ever* and they still plead poverty. They all claim they are underfunded (despite getting more money than EVER, and an amount that keeps increasing in constant dollars per student), and almost everyone just accepts it at face value without asking themselves whether more money has resulted in better schools and higher student performance in the past.

But as long as educational administrators won't be held accountable for the black hole of ever-increasing funding they are long as there are some academic standards and some core curriculum requirements, then perhaps this is exactly the kick in the behind many of these administrators need. Maybe some of them would have to rechannel their ever-increasing share of our nation's GDP into things like new books, more and/or better qualified/paid teachers, supplies and facilities conducive to learning and teaching instead of whatever black hole the dollars must be going into.

Posted by: Tim on December 6, 2004 10:46 AM

Tim blathered: "whatever black hole the dollars must be going into"

Well, it took me less than four minutes to go to the TEA website and find expenditure reports for the state of Texas, available either on a district-by-district basis, or a statewide total.
Statewide totals indicate that public schools are spending their money on:
Plant maint/Operation--12%
School Leadership--6%
General Administration--4.25%
Guidance Counseling--3.43%
there are also tiny percentages for Food, Health Services, Security, Data Processing, Staff Development, Social Work Services, etc

Looks like there is a wealth of data for Tim to get to work on: go to it, Tim!

Analyze that data and tell us what is wrong with school finance.

We're waiting.....

Posted by: Locutor on December 6, 2004 11:45 AM


One of two things is apparent no matter what:

(1) There is a large amount of our school taxes being wasted and is not getting to the core educational mission;

(2) Money IS getting to the right places, therefore clearly disproving any significant link between funding levels and school performance:

For what it's worth: I also suspect that the percentages you quote above may also have their own administrative overhead and other expenses which aren't itemized.

IMO, anyone who can think that more money is and should be the main thing our schools need is clearly and completely turning a blind eye to the past.

Posted by: Tim on December 6, 2004 12:14 PM

The voucher movement is simply a way for ideological extremists to siphon billions of tax dollars out of our public schools to a) fund their own private schools and b) hasten the collapse of public education.

Like the tort reform movement, it is also intended to defund the Democratic Party (teachers' groups contribute money and bodies to Democratic campaigns).

The last thing anyone who is genuinely interested in preserving legitimate private-school options -- because they want their children to have religious training, for example -- should want is the added government bureaucracy and red tape that will come along with the tax dollars the shift from public to private classrooms.

Posted by: Zangwell Arrow on December 6, 2004 4:19 PM

Many of the problems that public schools experience have little to do with the education side of the equation and a lot to do with societal problems that land in the classroom. Public schools shouldn't be held responsible for things that are well beyond their control, or even their influence. My best friend teaches bilingual first grade in a lower-middle-class Austin neighborhood, and routinely has children in her classroom who go hungry and who have no coats. Most of teachers I know of are in the field (and making sacrifices to be there) because they care deeply about children and education.

Posted by: Susan on December 6, 2004 4:20 PM

Tim: Let me say this VERY crudely, so as to get the point across to you: How do you propose educating the retarded and anti-social in a cheap way?

You want to know where those education dollars go? What makes private schools so much more efficient (if they have proper oversight) than public schools?

Selective enrollement.

Until you account for that, you're blowing hot air.

Posted by: Morat on December 7, 2004 12:24 PM

Hey Morat -- it's interesting to hear you say I'm blowing out hot air when you give ZERO statistics to back up your position. Sounds like you are the one who is full of it, my friend.

All you do is dismiss the positions of others without giving any supporting evidence to your (contrary) position. And to keep this on topic with respect to the cost of education, I hope you get a refund on wherever it is you learned debating skills. You obviously didn't get your money's worth even if you only paid a buck and a half.

I provided some statistical evidence. You refute it with anecdotes that you have no evidence to back up. You can choose not to believe it, but to assert it's flawed without providing anything more than "it's wrong because I said so" is a joke.

Posted by: Tim on December 7, 2004 1:18 PM

Tim: What? You need me to give statistics to prove that private schools have selective enrollment and public schools don't?

Would you like statistics indicating the sky is blue and the US Government consists of an Executive, a Judicial, and a Legislative branch?

Posted by: Morat on December 7, 2004 3:15 PM

No, I'm referring to the implication (or my inference) that all the extra spending per student is due to special ed and stuff like that. You referred to "educating the retarded and anti-social," which are legitimate points...but keep in mind that we're spending 3x per student today what we were in 1970. Has teaching the special-needs children caused our expenses to *triple*?

That's what I was referring to, not the "selective enrollment" point which is, frankly, well-taken -- and obvious.

I just don't think there has been enough explanation from educrats as to why they need more than three times as much, per student, in real dollars to educate today than 30-35 years ago. And frankly, until they can give a good accounting -- at a low level, not an extremely high one -- my response to their pleas of poverty will be to show me any statistical evidence that lack of money is one of the primary problems.

I just don't think it's getting to the right places. But it's getting there, IMO.

Posted by: Tim on December 7, 2004 5:07 PM

Tim: You don't see the correlation? You must not have any experience in education. Practically put: Special needs students cost a LOT. Problems students cost A LOT.

Unlike, oh, 30 to 35 years ago we can't write off special needs kids and place them in instutions, declare them retarded, or just uneducatable. Instead, rather expensive solutions are employed in order to actually educate them. With low-functioning individuals the goal might be "self-sufficiency", but with many the goal is to overcome handicaps and obstacles to become productive members of society.

Ever priced 6 years of expert time to deal with extreme dylsexia? Not cheap, but federally mandated.

You should study your history. If you did, you'd find one of the biggest complaints in education revolves around how the federal government mandated that ALL schools must accept mentally and physically handicapped students and educate them -- regardless of cost -- and then failed to fund that mandate. It ain't cheap, and vouchers aren't going to fix it. They'll just make it worse.

Of course, it's not just the handicapped, of course. Used to be (30 to 35 years ago) they made no effort to seperate students by ability at ALL. It wasn't just the handicapped. The GT students ended up in classes that bored them to tears...nowdays they end up with college credit, if they don't graduate early.

And of course there's the fact that modern education is a HELL of a lot better than education 30 to 35 years ago, much as that might distress some people. When in high school, a decade or so ago, it wasn't unusual for students to graduate with a semester or more of college credit, via examination. Nowdays, of course, they offer dual credit take classes at your local community college (while in high school) and get credit for the HS equivilant.

Education and biology. Those seem to be the two fields where people honestly seem to believe that ignorance of the subject is a better qualification than expertise.

Posted by: Morat on December 8, 2004 12:00 PM