This week began with the Texas Freedom Network mobilizing supporters of public education, family planning, LGBT rights and religious freedom for big battles at the Texas Capitol. We’re happy to report good news on a number of fronts, but hard work remains ahead of us.

Public Education On Thursday the Texas House voted overwhelmingly, 103-43, to bar spending any public dollars on voucher schemes that subsidize tuition at private and religious schools. This is the third time in the last four legislative sessions that House members have slammed the door on private school vouchers. TFN is still working to block voucher bills being pushed in the Senate.

Family Planning Two years after the Texas House declared war on birth control, House members this week passed a state budget that reverses most of those funding cuts to family planning services for low-income women. Your calls and emails to lawmakers helped stop any repeat of the frenzy to cut family planning funds that occurred during House debate of the budget in 2011. TFN will continue to monitor this critical issue as the House and Senate budget bills go to a conference committee.

LGBT Rights An effort to amend the… Read More

We’ll give this to him: he’s persistent.

On the first day (today) that lawmakers can file bills for the 2013 session of the Texas Legislature, state Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, has proposed a bill — House Bill 49 — requiring public high school students to take a course on the U.S. Constitution. Seems reasonable? Of course — except that high schools already teach such a course: U.S. Government.

Flynn filed the same bill in 2011, and it went nowhere. Lawmakers didn’t seem to see much value in having school districts repeat something they already teach in another course (especially while Flynn and other legislators were voting to slash billions of dollars in funding for public education at the same time).

Flynn has also filed House Bill 51, which would bar local school districts from prohibiting the posting of the Ten Commandments “in a prominent location in a district classroom.” The same bill (filed by Flynn) also went nowhere last session. Perhaps Flynn should study up on the Constitution himself — especially the part about no government establishment of religion.… Read More

It’s safe to say that some of our lawmaker neighbors in Louisiana have been experiencing some buyer’s remorse since approving a school voucher scheme designed to funnel millions of dollars away from public schools to private and parochial schools earlier this month.

The buyer’s remorse is not because of finances. You can read about the high cost of vouchers and the harm they inflict on education in our post from last week. No, the regret some Louisiana lawmakers have been feeling comes from the realization that if you’re going to set up a voucher system and open it up to private schools, you have to open it to all private schools, not just the private schools you like. Somehow this little fact seems to have escaped some Louisiana officials who supported the plan because, well, we’ll let the Associated Press tell you:

Rep. Kenneth Havard, R-Jackson, objected to including the Islamic School of Greater New Orleans in a list of schools approved by the education department to accept as many as 38 voucher students. Havard said he wouldn’t support any spending plan that “will fund Islamic teaching.”

“I won’t go back home and explain to my… Read More

Because of a lot of hard work by the Texas Freedom Network, our partners in the Coalition for Public Schools, and pro-public education lawmakers, the Texas Legislature has never passed a private school voucher scheme that would drain hundreds of millions of dollars from already cash-strapped neighborhood public schools. But taxpayers in neighboring Louisiana will soon be shelling out big money in a vast voucher scheme to privatize education there.

Parents who hope to use the new vouchers to send their children to the state’s best private schools this fall shouldn’t hold their breath. Most of those schools have very few openings for Louisiana’s new voucher students. (This shouldn’t be a surprise. The best private schools cherry-pick their students. They can turn away students they don’t want and/or have no room for. Public schools take all the students who show up at their doors.)

According to a Reuters article, the most openings are at smaller and less prestigious religious schools — many with some rather questionable approaches to education:

The school willing to accept the most voucher students — 314 — is New Living Word in Ruston, which has a top-ranked basketball team but no library. Students spend… Read More

At least 10 out of 27 Republicans seeking election to the State Board of Education (SBOE), which oversees public education across Texas, say they don’t agree that “it is the government’s responsibility to be sure children are properly educated.” Of 13 Republicans responding to a candidate survey sent out by a collection of religious-right groups, three said they “disagree” with that statement, while another seven said they “strongly disagree.”

Eight Republican candidates in the May 29 SBOE primaries didn’t respond to the survey. Six candidates who are unopposed in their GOP primaries did not get the questionnaire. Just three Republicans affirmed the importance of public education in Texas. The religious-right groups that sponsored the survey (all of which are nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations) didn’t question Democratic candidates.

Here’s what Article 7 of the Texas Constitution says about government’s role in education (emphasis added):

“A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”

The candidate survey was… Read More

Just Texas

To all who celebrate, we wish a very happy and sweet new year this Rosh Hashanah! We are incredibly grateful for the passionate Jewish leaders in our community working towards reproductive freedom, LGBTQ inclusion, and the empowerment of women. pic.twitter.com/jCcZ…