This Friday we’ll be monitoring a state senate
photo op committee hearing here in Austin on one of the longstanding pet causes for the far right: school vouchers.
Yes, vouchers are back. Again. After failing to pass voucher legislation at each legislative session since 1995, the far right seems poised to try, try again next year when they reconvene for the 83rd Texas Legislative Session.
We’ve said it many times before: All voucher schemes accomplish is to drain scarce taxpayer funds from public schools and funnel them to private and religiously affiliated schools. And, if you were paying attention during the 2011 Legislative session, public schools don’t have much more to give after lawmakers stripped school district budgets of roughly $4 billion.
But such concerns won’t stop the far right from giving it another shot. State Sen. Dan Patrick, who will act as chair at Friday’s Senate Committee on Education hearing, made his intentions quite clear in a Houston Chronicle story just a few weeks ago:
“To me, school choice is the photo ID bill of this session. Our base has wanted us to pass photo voter ID for years, and we did it. They’ve been wanting us to pass school choice for years. This is the year to do it, in my view. That issue will do more to impact the future of Texas and the quality of education than anything else we could do.”
It appears voucher promoters initially intended to bring in the big guns for Friday’s Senate hearing. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was scheduled to testify, but we’re hearing he has now backed out.
With no Bush to headline the hearing, it will be the pro-voucher lobby B Team going to bat tomorrow. On that team is the Heartland Institute, the Chicago-based group that is perhaps best known for a stunt earlier this year in which they tried to link horrible historical figures with climate change science. After considering pictures of Charles Manson, Fidel Castro and Osama bin Laden, Heartland finally settled on a picture of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski in a billboard that asked the question, “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?”
Those billboards led to a swift and precipitous fall for Heartland as corporate donors defected en mass and the crowds stayed away from the group’s previously popular climate change-denial conference in May. With their environmental agenda in tatters, I guess the folks at Heartland are free to focus on their pro-voucher agenda. (As a reminder, the Heartland staff have peddled their voucher programs in Texas before.)
More on vouchers soon, including an extensive look at the church-state train wreck underway in Louisiana.