Patrick has his voucher hearing

It went about as you’d expect.

State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, delivered an impassioned plea in support of what threatens to become a beleaguered tax credit scholarship plan during a Tuesday morning hearing on his legislation.

“We are great enough in this state to do this thing if we just knock down some barriers of people who are against opportunity and competition because they always have been,” he said.

Currently, those barriers likely include the Texas House, where lawmakers recently made their opposition to the issue clear when they overwhelmingly passed an amendment to the state budget aimed at banning private school vouchers — which nine out of 10 members of the lower chamber’s education committee voted for — and possibly members of Patrick’s own party in the Senate.

“I may go down fighting on this issue, but I will never apologize for trying to reach out and help families who are desperate for their children to have chance they never had,” Patrick said Tuesday morning.

Nor will he ever apologize for doing nothing to help families who are desperate for their children to have access to health care. No, I’m not going to stop harping on this.

For much of the morning’s testimony, questions primarily came from Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, who does not sit on the panel, but articulated many concerns of the legislation’s opponents, including whether private schools accepting students under the scholarships would be subject to the state’s accountability standards.

Patrick told the panel that the tax credit legislation had brought together “Catholics, Jews, Christians” and members of the business community to help low-income families secure the best educational opportunities for their children.

“I’ve taken a lot of criticism for this bill, but I’m okay with that,” he said. “And I’m okay with that even if we are not victorious because this a noble cause.”

Some of that criticism came from former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, who now works for the education advocacy and research group Raise Your Hand Texas, which does not support Patrick’s legislation. Ratliff noted that he carried the state’s first charter school legislation while in the Senate in 1995.

The Observer also covered the hearing and noted the exchanges with Sen. Davis and former Lt. Gov. Ratliff, but this was my favorite part:

Testifying this morning at his invitation: Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston, Bishop Placido Rodriguez of Lubbock, Bishop Patrick Zurek of Amarillo, Rabbi Eliezer Langer of Austin and Cornerstone Christian Schools Superintendent Jerry Echelin.

Rodriguez reminded lawmakers that the Catholic Church runs the country’s biggest private school network, with more than two million students. All the invited speakers were enthusiastic about the possibility of a major new revenue source. The unspoken subtext is that the rise of charter schools—another side of school choice movement—has been especially rough on Catholic schools.

None said they were concerned about being accountable and transparent, if that’s what it took to get the scholarships, though they stopped short of volunteering to give STAAR tests or submit to open records laws. “In itself,” DiNardo said, “accountability is always good. I don’t know what all the ins and outs would be in terms of accountability.”

Zurek recalled the Catholic Church’s proud history of openness and transparency. ”We have never hidden any records,” he said, “in any diocese that I have been in.”

Yeah, I can’t think of a more open and transparent institution in the world than the Catholic Church, either. They’re always up front about what’s going on with them. On a tangential note, see here for more about that decline in private school enrollment and the connection with charters. Puts this debate in a new light yet again, doesn’t it?

Anyway. As the DMN notes, Patrick’s bill SB 23 and the other Senate and House bills that were discussed in this and the concurrent lower chamber hearing were left pending, which is usually how these things go. Given that Patrick chairs the Senate Education Committee, I’d say it’s a safe bet his bill comes up for a vote in committee unless it’s clear to him that he doesn’t have the votes. If it does pass out of committee, I think it’s unlikely to get to the Senate floor for a vote. But at least he had his hearing. The Statesman, Hair Balls, Burka, and the TSTA have more.

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One Response to Patrick has his voucher hearing

  1. Buhallin says:

    “We are great enough in this state to do this thing if we just knock down some barriers of people who are against opportunity and competition because they always have been”


    “Texas is great enough to do anything as long as nobody tries to stop it!”

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