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Senate passes a voucher bill

Hopefully, this will die in the House.

Some low-income families unhappy with their public schools would get help paying private school tuition under a plan that won tentative approval in the Texas Senate Monday.

Senate Bill 4, which would use state tax credits to entice up to $100 million in business donations to fund a scholarship program, cleared the chamber 18 to 12 with two Republicans, Konni Burton of Colleyville and Robert Nichols of Jacksonville, breaking party lines to vote against the measure. One Democrat, Eddie Lucio of Brownsville, voted in favor.

Before it passed, Democrats raised concerns about the plan, arguing that it diverted money that should be going to public education into an unaccountable private school system. “They don’t have the same kinds of requirements that our public schools do,” said state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso. “I can’t seem to get around that.”

While defending his proposal, state Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, insisted that the legislation should not be considered a private school voucher program — a notion that has proven politically toxic in the Legislature.

“I don’t think we are taking money from the public schools. The student is leaving,” said Taylor, who chairs the Senate Education Committee. “This is private money — not state money — that is donated.”

Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, said he viewed the legislation as a way to “short circuit around the whole voucher concept.”

“It is money that a corporation will be giving to a scholarship program in lieu of paying tax,” he said.

Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, called on Taylor to add language banning private schools participating in the program from using Common Core, the national set of curriculum standards that Texas lawmakers prohibited in the state’s public education system in 2013.

“It just defies logic that you would apply a different standard to private schools using taxpayer subsidized money,” said Ellis, after his amendment was tabled at Taylor’s urging.

Senators Rodriguez, Menendez, and Ellis have hit the highlights here. This is a strong point, too.

Rev. Charles Johnson, director of Pastors for Texas Children, a public school advocacy group, said the push for vouchers is more a fight for money than improving educational opportunity for poor students.

“If this were about kids, we’d target those 70 or 80 struggling schools out of 8,500 public schools and we would give them the resources they need to succeed,” he said. “The Legislature consistently refuses to do that.”

Well yeah. That would cost money. Dan Patrick already thinks we spend too much money on public education. Even the credulous Erica Greider notes that under this bill, families with above-median incomes would be eligible for these “scholarships”, a name that’s more about branding than anything else. It’s a giveaway to people who don’t need it at the expense of people who do, and there’s no evidence from existing voucher programs elsewhere that it does anything to improve educational outcomes. Like I said, let’s hope it dies in the House, as it should.

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8 Comments

  1. Joel says:

    “Even the credulous Erica Greider notes”

    i love this. never have i read an opinion writer so willing to give the benefit of the doubt to obviously bad actors. she literally doubles over backwards to appear “balanced” when there is nothing to balance.

  2. Joel says:

    sorry for the use of literally there. although for all i know it is true.

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    ““I don’t think we are taking money from the public schools. The student is leaving,” said Taylor, who chairs the Senate Education Committee. “This is private money — not state money — that is donated.”

    Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, said he viewed the legislation as a way to “short circuit around the whole voucher concept.”

    “It is money that a corporation will be giving to a scholarship program in lieu of paying tax,” he said.”

    If I must pay $ 100 in tax, but I have the option to “donate” a $ 100 to school vouchers and not pay the $ 100 to the general fund, I’m still paying the tax….I’m not donating anything. I’m choosing the form of the mandatory tax payment.

    Larry Taylor is an insurance company bought legislator, so it’s not surprising that he also peddles himself for school vouchers.

    School vouchers will mainly help those with the means to send their kids to private school anyway. Say a parent living in the former North Forest ISD wants to send their kid to Kincaid or St. Johns…they would have to make up the difference between the voucher and the actual cost. If the parent could afford to do that, they wouldn’t be living in the (formerly) NFISD area anyway.

  4. Paul kubosh says:

    You guys crack me. Vouchers are coming and it is the end of the world. God forbide more people go to private school.

  5. Steven Houston says:

    My neighbors that teach in public schools are absolutely convinced that vouchers will be the end of the universe as we know it regardless of the specific legislation. I generally agree with Bill’s take on the matter though because all vouchers will do is cause more demand for those private schools which will raise their costs, probably very close to whatever the vouchers are worth. The resulting loss of funds to the public school, those already attending private school will want their cut of course, won’t mind and it will potentially cause issues with overall school funding.

    Having dealt with the public school system in both poorly rated and highly rated schools, I’d be in favor of scraping the whole thing for something better if possible, the power of those in charge is incredible to circumvent even a passing glance at due process or fairness amazes me. And for the trickery they use to marginalize students to keep them off the rolls for standardized testing or label them as special needs astonished me to no end considering how much my school taxes are each year.

  6. Joel says:

    most private schools cost more than the vouchers already, steven. but you’re right about one thing: with vouchers in place, no school would cost LESS.

  7. Steven Houston says:

    Joel, I was referring to the likelihood that the marginal increase would probably be close to whatever amount the voucher was. If a school cost 10k a year now, a 3k voucher system would probably mean the future cost for the school would be 13k. While the devil is in the details of any legislation, I think it’s a fantasy to think any likely voucher system would result in a mass exodus of students from public to private schools or even shifting people from one public school to another (in the latter case, the “problem children” would move to new schools just as frequently to make their new schools deficient, the belief that individual teachers are usually the problem dispelled by peer reviewed research).

  8. Bill Daniels says:

    If school vouchers come to fruition, there will be additional administrative expense incurred by the school districts, the state, AND the private schools. New jobs will be added to all three to handle the administration of the payments. That will probably mean new office space, new computers, more IT folks, etc. So yes, the costs for all will increase. Private schools will have to charge more just to make up for the additional costs they will incur trying to collect the voucher money for their students. School districts will have less money to spend on educating the remaining kids because they will have more overhead documenting the students leaving for private school, and the state will have less money for everything else it does because it will have to create a brand new program to administrate the voucher program.

    So, think about that, folks that say you want small government….this is going to create more bureaucracy, more government, more regulation….everything that people who claim to want smaller, less intrusive government supposedly stand against.

    FWIW, I’m against them.