You might think it would be difficult for the Texas Republican Party to lurch even further to the political right. But you would be wrong, especially when it comes to public education.

Wealthy real estate and car dealership magnate Don Huffines’ narrow defeat of incumbent state Sen. John Carona in their Republican Primary last month could be a big blow for supporters of public schools in Texas. Carona has held the Dallas-area Senate district’s seat since he was first elected in 1996. He has long been an opponent of private school vouchers, which divert tax dollars from public schools to private and religious schools.

Huffines, who campaigned as a tea party Republican, tells Dallas public radio station KERA that he supports “certain types of vouchers.” Among those “types” is the tax-credit voucher scheme pushed by state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, last year. Such backdoor voucher schemes create tax breaks for businesses that contribute money to “scholarship” programs for students who attend private schools. Those tax breaks lower funding available for public schools.

Moreover, even Gov. Perry’s former state education commissioner, Robert Scott, has warned that “the potential for fraud is incredible” with these tax-credit voucher schemes. In

From Associated Press:

Louisiana’s Supreme Court has ruled that the funding method for a private school tuition voucher program pushed through the Legislature last year by Gov. Bobby Jindal is unconstitutional.

Tuesday’s 6-1 decision upholds a state district court ruling that the state constitution forbids using money earmarked for public schools in the state’s Minimum Foundation Program to pay for private school tuition.

The Jindal administration has pushed on with the voucher program, despite the previous court rulings. Roughly 8,000 students have been approved for vouchers in the coming school year. It remains unclear how the program will be funded, now that use of the MFP money has been struck down.

More TFN Insider reports about Louisiana’s private school voucher scheme here and here.… Read More

Add the State Board of Education to the list of elected Texas officials who are against private school voucher schemes.

By a vote of 10-5, the board earlier today approved a resolution by board member Ruben Cortez, D-Brownsville, calling on state legislators to reject vouchers.

On April 4 the Texas House overwhelmingly passed an amendment to the state appropriations bill barring the use of public money for any private school voucher scheme. That marked the third time in the last four sessions the Texas House has done so.

TFN President Kathy Miller said the following of today’s SBOE resolution:

“With the State Board of Education now joining the Texas House in slamming the door on vouchers, it’s past time for Sen. Patrick and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst to give it up. Instead of wasting time trying to divert taxpayer dollars to private schools with one voucher scheme or another, they should focus on making sure our neighborhood public schools have the resources they need to educate 5 million Texas kids.”

Here’s the vote: Yes — Allen, Cortez, Dominguez, Hardy, Knight, Maynard, Melton, Perez, Ratliff, Rowley No — Bradley, Cargill, Mercer, Miller, Bahorich… Read More

At a time when the Southern Baptist Convention has fallen completely under the control of religious fundamentalists who seek to use government to promote their own ideological views, it might be hard to remember the long tradition of Baptist support for separation of church and state. Many Baptists still support it. Take, for example, the Rev. Charles Johnson, pastor of Bread Fellowship in Fort Worth. On Tuesday he spoke before the Texas Senate Education Committee against Senate Bill 23, a measure that would provide state tax credits to businesses that fund voucher scholarships for students at private and religious schools. He was testifying on behalf of the Christian Life Commission and the Coalition for Public Schools. TFN is a member of that coalition, which opposes private school voucher schemes.

Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, the author of SB 23 and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has argued repeatedly that his bill doesn’t create a government-funded voucher program that subsidizes tuition at nonpublic schools. But Rev. Johnson clearly and correctly explained that the bill’s tax breaks for businesses would take money that would otherwise go to public schools and send it to private… Read More

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