February 08, 2007

Is it just me, or does the tone of the voucher rally sound a tad bit desperate?

San Antonio businessman James Leininger, arguably the state's biggest supporter of school vouchers, sought out a shady spot to talk about his soon-to-end scholarship program for low-income students.

If Texas lawmakers this year don't create an experimental school voucher program for those students, "they'll just be out on the street," said Leininger, whose 10-year, $50 million project ends after the 2007-08 school year.

I like this response to Leininger's worries:

Kathy Miller of the anti-voucher Texas Freedom Network said: "Private schools may be willing to put those kids out on the street, but the great thing about our neighborhood public schools is that they would never do that."

I'm not going to rehash all the arguments against vouchers. It's clear based on November's election returns that supporters have lost ground in the Lege. Even Leininger recognizes that.

There appears to be little momentum at the Capitol this year for a publicly funded voucher program. The House could not pass a pilot voucher plan last year, and, by Leininger's count, he's lost five allies in the 150-member body since then.

House Speaker Tom Craddick and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst support limited voucher programs, but neither sounded ready to make a hard sell for the issue when asked about it this week.

"I think we need to do a better job of being able to explain what it is that we're trying to accomplish to help at-risk kids and not undo public education," Dewhurst said.

Though the Senate avoided a public voucher debate last year, House members on both sides of the issue caught flak for their votes.

"A lot of House members feel like, at this point, it needs to come from the Senate to see if there's support for it before they get involved," Craddick said.

Gov. Rick Perry, a longtime voucher proponent, did not mention them in his 55-minute State of the State speech Tuesday.

Leininger credited public school employees with defeating repeated voucher proposals.

"A lot of these (legislators) know there will be a price to pay if they embrace it," he said.

As well there should be for bad ideas like vouchers. It's just a shame that no one ran against State Sen. Kyle Janek, who will be filing a pro-voucher bill, last year. Maybe he'd have met the same fate as some of Leininger's other minions. Some people need the message delivered to them personally, I guess.

More from Vince, South Texas Chisme, Hal, and most amusingly, the Texas Observer. Who knew John Stossel was such an expert in these matters? Nice to see he thinks there's still mileage in comparing public schools to communism. No wonder he gets paid the big bucks.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 08, 2007 to That's our Lege