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Huberty says vouchers are dead this session

Always nice to hear.

The top education policy official in the Texas House said Tuesday that he would not allow the approval of school vouchers this legislative session, a blunt pronouncement that could be fatal to the prospects for legislation that is a priority for many top Republicans in the state.

The official, House Public Education Chairman Dan Huberty, R-Houston, said during a Texas Tribune event here that he and his colleagues in the House already had debated the issue at length and determined that vouchers would reduce school accountability by putting public dollars in private schools that are not subject to the same rules and also would distract from more pressing challenges, such as fixing the school finance system.

Asked whether that meant a high-profile voucher proposal from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was “dead, dead, dead,” Huberty said yes. Asked whether there was anything that could change his mind, Huberty said no.

“Why don’t we talk about the real issues?” Huberty said.

Excellent question. You can see the video of this conversation here. Rep. Huberty has been backed by the Texas ParentPAC, which came into existence back in 2005 for the purpose of supporting legislators who support public schools, which among other things means opposing vouchers. Why should we oppose vouchers? Well for one thing, they just don’t work.

Education secretary Betsy DeVos has been a champion of school vouchers for decades, and has claimed students don’t benefit from better funding of public schools. But a new report from the Economic Policy Institute shows that vouchers do not improve student achievement in any meaningful way.

A significant body of research on vouchers over the past 15 years has found that there is not enough evidence to support the claim that vouchers significantly improve student achievement, wrote Martin Carnoy, Vida Jacks Professor of Education and Economics at Stanford University. In some cases, vouchers exacerbate issues that hurt students’ quality of education, such as racial and economic school segregation and a flow of inexperienced young teachers into schools.

Research on voucher experiments in New York City, Dayton, Ohio, and Washington, D.C. showed that there were no significant improvements for students, especially for students Republicans argue will benefit from them the most: students of color.

The Opportunity Scholarship Program in Washington, D.C., which is directly funded by Congress, showed no significant reading or math gains for students who used vouchers and scholarships compared to students who did not. Still, the Trump administration may move to expand the program, The Washington Post reported.

In Milwaukee, which has the country’s largest and oldest voucher program, only one in four students attend their public school. But black students, who are the main recipients of the vouchers, had lower eighth grade math scores than students in every city but Detroit. The scores were even worse for reading, where Milwaukee eighth graders scored lower than black eighth graders in all other 12 cities included in the study. Although Milwaukee students made large gains in the 2007–2008 school year, there were not significant gains in reading between 2007 and 2011.

Although proponents of vouchers say that competition forces public schools to improve, Carnoy came to the conclusion that it is more likely that accountability measures are driving improvements in struggling public schools.

You can see that well-timed research here. Closer to home, RG Ratcliffe highlights another issue with the Patrick plan: There just aren’t many private schools in poor neighborhoods, which is both screamingly obvious when you think about it and also kind of a logistical problem.

Dallas County has more than 30,000 children attending about 100 accredited private schools. The majority are clustered in wealthier areas of North and East Dallas, the News’ analysis of education and demographic data shows.

Meanwhile, entire swaths of southern Dallas County lack a single private school. These poorer neighborhoods have lots of low-rated public schools — the very schools that voucher supporters say they want to help kids escape.

And of course, the Patrick plan wouldn’t pay the full tuition for poor kids who wanted to go to St. John’s or Hockaday or wherever, so the end effect would be even more limited. You can see why Rep. Huberty isn’t excited. What’s far less clear is what Patrick and Abbott and so on keep pushing this idea.

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5 Comments

  1. Paul A Kubosh says:

    I think that is great also. We all know that Public Schools offer a better education then Private Schools.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    Paul,

    I think what the anti-voucher folks are intimating is that any desirable private school is going to cost “voucher + cash,” which works out OK for parents with some money, but probably wouldn’t be helpful to parents of kids at the worst schools, like Forest Brook, who, if they could afford to kick in some cash for tuition, wouldn’t be living where they were zoned for those schools. Thus, they argue that vouchers won’t benefit the kids that need them the most.

    I wonder, however, how those “KIPP Academy” schools operate. They seem to be pretty highly thought of, and are located in poor parts of town. If there are no vouchers, how do they operate now?

  3. Ross says:

    @Bill, KIPP is a charter school organization that gets the bulk of their funding from public sources, just like a public school. Their accountability measures are different, and they aren’t subject to the same “take anyone who shows up” rules.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    @Ross:

    Thanks for the explanation. So KIPP parents pay no tuition, then?

    This brings up another issue. Are liberals who are opposed to vouchers also opposed to charter schools like KIPP? It is logical that if you drain off the cream of the crop, by enrolling them at KIPP, that just hastens the decline of the public schools the charter schools compete with, like Forest Brook or North Forest.

    Anecdote time:

    Years ago, I met the ag teacher at Forest Brook, who told me that there were indeed some good kids there, who suffered greatly because many of their fellow students ran wild and obviously had no parental supervision. Perhaps it’s my racist, misogynist, homophobic view, but, it would seem, in general, that the ag kids would generally be good kids, and those were the ones he interacted with daily.

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