For months state Sen. Dan Patrick — the Republican chairman of the Texas Senate Education Committee — has insisted that the Legislature should divert millions of dollars from public education to subsidize tuition at private and religious schools. Sen. Patrick and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst even held a press conference at a parochial school in Austin to promote their ideas. They and other voucher advocates have often seemed to care more about helping private schools increase their enrollment than in helping the state’s public schools educate 5 million Texas kids.

But Sen. Patrick’s legislation creating a tax-credit voucher scheme, Senate Bill 23, ran into a buzz saw in today’s Education Committee hearing. That buzz saw was Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, a true champion for public education.

Sen. Davis pointed out that Texas ranks 49th among the nation’s 50 states and the District of Columbia in spending per pupil. In fact, just Nevada and Arizona spend less than Texas on a per-pupil basis. We’re starving our public schools, Sen. Davis said, and then blaming those schools when they struggle. And voucher schemes — whether through tax credits or direct state subsidies — would divert more money… Read More

The wait is finally over. After months of promises and grandstanding, Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, with only hours remaining before the bill-filing deadline, finally fulfilled his pledge to file a school voucher bill.

If you’ve been listening to Sen. Patrick since last August, you would think that this moment would be met with fanfare and cheers. Let’s recap.

Patrick told the Houston Chronicle back in August that a “school choice” bill would be the Voter ID bill of this session.

The same month Patrick went to the Republican Party National Convention in Florida, where he said this:

We do not have a plan that we’re ready to unveil at this point. We still have months to go. There are lots of ideas. But I can assure you that we will have a plan, whomever brings that together.

Then there was the big press event Patrick held with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst at a Catholic school near the Capitol. There, just days before Christmas, Patrick made grand promises about school reforms and touted his coming voucher legislation.

Yet it took Patrick until the 11th hour to actually produce a bill. And SB 1410 — along… Read More

Did you know that students attending private schools in Texas today face discrimination like African-American students did during the era of racial segregation? Sen. Dan Patrick, the Republican chairman of the Texas Senate Education Committee, seems to think so.

Sen. Patrick was speaking at Tuesday’s Education Committee hearing on Senate Bill 573, a measure that would permit private and religious schools as well as home-schoolers to compete with public schools in the state’s University Interscholastic League (UIL):

“When you say the UIL has functioned for a hundred years, and everybody’s been happy, if you were black in this state before the civil rights movement, it didn’t function for you. And now I feel there’s discrimination against Catholics and Christians in these parochial schools. And the same testimony would have been given before this committee in the 1950s, ‘it’s going to be an unlevel playing field if we let those black players play.’ You know, traditions must be broken, people must be accepted, and no one should be discriminated in Texas, and we’re one of only four states that do not allow this this. And I really hope the coaches would remember what happened in the civil rights… Read More

Today we saw a big reason why sex education is so awful in Texas, a state with one of the highest teen birth rates in the nation. Polling shows that 84 percent of registered voters in Texas want high school sex education classes to teach about birth control along with the importance of abstinence. But a vocal minority of abstinence-only activists use bullying and fear-mongering to keep effective sex education out of many public schools. And today’s public hearing before the Senate Education Committee in Austin provided a case study in how those tactics work.

The committee, chaired by state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, heard testimony on Senate Bill 521. That bill would, in part, bar anyone affiliated with an abortion provider from teaching sex education in public schools. That and other new requirements in the bill would make it harder for students, especially in low-income districts, to get effective sex education.

It was clear in the committee’s morning session that the bill’s supporters had decided to launch an all-out assault on sex education and on any organization — including the Texas Freedom Network — that opposes abstinence-only programs that keep students ignorant.

Anti-abortion and abstinence-only… Read More

State Sen. Dan Patrick, the Houston Republican who chairs the Senate Education Committee, on Thursday criticized those who oppose his bill to expand charter schools in Texas:

“I want you to understand that when you testify, you’re not testifying against a bill. You’re testifying against 100,000 families who are are on the wait list who are desperate for their children to have choice.”

Sen. Patrick’s attempt to portray those with honest concerns about his bill as somehow standing against “desperate” families was more than a little self-righteous. Let’s apply the senator’s logic, such as it is, to some of his positions on other issues:… Read More