On Monday state Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, filed the long-awaited bill — Senate Bill 1015 — that would give businesses a tax credit for donations to a private school voucher program. That came after state Sen. Eddie Lucio’s office denied media reports that the Democrat from Brownsville would file the bill.
A Texas Freedom Network Education Fund briefing paper documents serious problems with tax-credit voucher schemes in other states. Often, for example, tax-credit vouchers simply subsidize tuition for students already in private schools rather than helping needy children as promised by proponents. In fact, some Georgia private schools have worked to funnel voucher donations back to the children of the donors themselves. In addition, tax-credit voucher schemes have led to the creation of a virtual cottage industry of organizations that make money soliciting donations. Lobbyists in Pennsylvania control the state’s largest voucher organizations and use decisions about who gets vouchers to curry favor with lawmakers.
A tax-credit voucher scheme in Texas would open the door to similar problems in this state. In fact, that’s essentially the warning from Gov. Rick Perry’s former education commissioner, Robert Scott. Speaking at a Texas Tribune event… Read More
The Texas Freedom Network will be focused Tuesday on two bills being heard by the Senate Education Committee: one that would create an expensive private school voucher program and another that could effectively end sex education in much of the state.
Senate Bill 115 by state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, would create a voucher program that pays private school tuition for students with disabilities. That scheme could drain millions of dollars from public schools that educate the vast majority of students with disabilities. Moreover, private schools aren’t required to provide legal procedures mandated by federal and state laws that protect the rights and interests of students with disabilities. SB 115 does include some of those protections, but private schools typically oppose any state regulation. In fact, state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, has filed a proposed constitutional amendment (HJR 45) barring any state or local regulation of private and religious schools — including schools that take tax-funded vouchers. The chances that private schools that accept vouchers (for students disabilities or anyone else) would really be accountable to taxpayers? Zero.
State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, has been promising that the Senate Education Committee he chairs will consider legislation giving tax credits to businesses that donate money for student “scholarships” to private and religious schools in Texas. It appears that Sen. Patrick has found a senator to file such a bill: Democrat Eddie Lucio of Brownsville.
A Rio Grande Guardian article on Wednesday was the first to report that Sen. Lucio would file the tax credit voucher bill, justifying the scheme this way:
“It’s more of a tax credit bill where businesses are going to be able to have a chance to contribute to a very worthy cause of helping a group of students who will be classified as poor and needy and at risk. I feel very strongly that we should help everyone regardless of how we approach the issue.”
But Texas doesn’t need a law for that. Businesses (and anyone else, for that matter) already have the freedom to contribute to scholarships at private and religious schools.
In any case,… Read More
On Tuesday the lawsuit trial in Austin over how Texas finances its public schools featured one of the national leaders of the private school voucher movement. Testimony from Joseph Bast, the president and CEO of the pro-voucher Heartland Institute, should be instructive for Texas legislators preparing for battle over vouchers in the current session. That’s because the testimony revealed, for all to see, the intellectual and factual bankruptcy of the voucher movement. According to the San Antonio Express-News, Bast testified that a voucher scheme called “taxpayer savings grants” would, by golly, be just great for low-income families, public schools, teachers and the state. But when he was cross-examined, Bast essentially revealed that he doesn’t know what in the world he’s talking about:[Bast] said the state saves $7,750 each time a child leaves the public system and, therefore, “the program actually benefits the public schools.”
He estimated annual savings at about $2 billion and said “mainstream economic thinking” predicts the resulting competition would drive up teacher pay by as much as $12,000 per year in “a metropolitan area like Houston.”… Read More
Perhaps the irony escaped them. Today Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan Patrick, R-Houston, held a press conference at a Catholic elementary school in Austin to talk about reforming public education.
Now think about that a minute. Two of the most important elected leaders on education in the Texas Senate — which along with the state House of Representatives is tasked by the state Constitution “to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools” — brought reporters to a private school to talk about public education reform.
That, of course, begs the question: just where do their priorities lie? And what schools are they trying to help?
Two years ago Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and Sen. Patrick helped lead efforts to cut more than $5 billion in funding for Texas public schools. Thousands of teachers lost their jobs. Courses were dropped, and classrooms got more crowded. Schools couldn’t buy textbooks and other instructional materials. And today these two elected officials went to a private school not to talk about restoring some of those draconian budget cuts. No, they went there to talk about the need… Read More