Texas legislators in 2007 and 2009 delivered huge defeats to backers of voucher schemes that would drain hundreds of millions of dollars from neighborhood public schools to subsidize tuition at private and religious schools. Those defeats came after the state’s voters punished pro-voucher legislators at the polls in 2006. Now Mitt Romney, the likely Republican nominee for president this year, is trying to revive those efforts to defund public education.

Today the former Massachusetts governor promoted a federal voucher scheme. From Talking Points Memo:

Romney’s plan would not entail any increased federal spending on education, his advisers confirmed to reporters beforehand. It would instead allow individual parents to use existing federal money to send children in public schools to private and charter schools.

Texas and other states across the country have already made deep cuts to funding for public education, leading to massive teacher layoffs and classrooms that are increasingly crowded. Now Romney wants to divert even more funding to private and religious schools that aren’t accountable to taxpayers and don’t have to meet the same standards as public schools.

Texans said “no” in 2006. Utah voters overwhelmingly rejected a voucher program the next year. According to the… Read More

It looks like anything is fair game for anti-public school fanatics. Peggy Venable, who directs the Texas office of (David and Charles Koch-funded) Americans for Prosperity, put up this odious Twitter post last week after police shot and killed an eighth-grade student in Brownsville:

AFP-Texas tweeted the same thing.

“School choice,” of course, is code for private school vouchers. During the 2011 Texas legislative session, Venable’s group supported a radical voucher scheme that could have diverted billions of dollars from the state’s public schools to private and religious schools. The bill would actually have had the state of Texas (not counting local or federal funds) pay more for a student to attend a private school than a public school. Venable was also thrilled that the Legislature slashed more than $5 billion in funding for public schools from the current two-year budget.

Now she is using the horrifying and tragic death of a junior high school student to push her anti-public education agenda. How cold and shameful.… Read More

Tea Party, and religious-right and other anti-government fanatics launched full-scale attacks on public education, religious freedom and women’s health in the regular and special sessions of the Texas Legislature this year. Over the next week, TFN Insider will recap what happened on major TFN issues during the two sessions. Up today: private school vouchers. Voucher advocates made two major efforts to pass an  enormously expensive scheme to drain billions of dollars from Texas public schools -- a last-minute amendment to a major budget bill in the regular session and a stand-alone bill, HB 33, in the special session. Both of those efforts to subsidize private and religious schools through so-called "taxpayer savings grants" failed in the face of solid opposition from TFN, our partners in the Coalition for Public Schools and other supporters of public education. Read More

Late on Monday night, a Texas House committee took testimony on a massive school voucher bill that would siphon billions of tax dollars away from already cash-strapped public schools to pay for tuition at private and religious schools. This legislation was crafted as a proposed amendment (that never made it to the House floor) to budget legislation during the regular legislative session, but state Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, has re-filed it in the current special session as HB 33. HB 33 doesn't specifically mention vouchers, instead calling the scheme a "Taxpayer Savings Grant Program." But make no mistake -- this is a voucher program through and through. And not only is it huge (open to nearly every public school student in the state), it apparently would also force the state to be more generous in its per-student funding for private schools than it is for public schools. Read More

On Monday the Government Efficiency and Reform Committee in the Texas House will consider HB 33, which would create a vastly expensive private school voucher scheme at a cost of billions of dollars to neighborhood public schools. The voucher lobby originally wanted to add the so-called “taxpayer savings” grant scheme to a budget bill during the regular legislative session in May. But the scheme’s supporters decided not to offer that amendment in the face of strong opposition from public school advocates.

It’s interesting that the new bill will be heard by the Government Efficiency and Reform Committee instead of the Public Education Committee. Clearly, the voucher lobby is more interested in slashing funds for public education — and diverting that money to private and religious schools — rather than in making neighborhood public schools stronger in Texas.

The Texas Freedom Network and our partners in the Coalition for Public Schools will be at the hearing on Monday. TFN Insider will keep you updated on what happens.… Read More