TEA Commissioner Shirley Neeley Flip-Flops On Vouchers

TEA Commissioner Shirley Neeley Flip-Flops On Vouchers

January 29, 2004

AUSTIN, TX – New Texas Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley made a 180-degree turn in her position on private school vouchers within weeks of her appointment by Governor Rick Perry.

“It was a surprise and disappointment this week when Neeley expressed support for the dangerous voucher scheme proposed by Governor Perry and special interests,” said Heather Alden, spokesperson for the Texas Freedom Network. “She has been a staunch opponent of the use of public money to pay tuition at private and religious schools.”

Alden said Neeley’s flip-flop on vouchers supports what had been reported by other candidates for the commissioner position: that Governor Perry would require his appointee as Education Commissioner to publicly support his controversial proposal for private school vouchers whether or not the individual thought it was good public policy.

In 1997 Neeley confronted then Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock, asking him to reverse his support of private school vouchers. She wrote, “With public education on the brink of excellence, why do you want to pull the plug and start over with a new program that will experience the same kinks and growing pains which public education has overcome? As the saying goes, ‘We’ve been there and done that.’”

She also said, “In spite of tremendous funding challenges and the relentless bashing of public education in the media, public school students from across Texas are making great strides in academic achievement….If you sincerely believe that public education is failing Texans, then it is all too obvious that you have not spent real, quality time in our schools.”

Alden said as Education Commissioner, Neeley has the authority to take over the management of any failing charter school or neighborhood public school, or even to close the school down immediately. “The Governor cannot justify using tax funds to pay private school tuition when we have a take-charge commissioner with such an excellent track record in improving student achievement in public schools.”