Tea Party Victor in Texas Senate Race Supports Private School Vouchers, Teaching Creationism in Public Schools

by Dan Quinn

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 states that have already tried them, the vouchers often go to students already enrolled in private schools or to other students identified by the donors themselves. They also become tools that lobbyists and legislators use to reward and gain influence with each other.

But if draining money from public schools isn’t bad enough, Huffines also wants to undermine science instruction in those schools. Huffines told KERA that he supports teaching creationism alongside evolution in science classrooms:

“I certainly think all students should be aware of creationism. They should be aware of that, absolutely. Teaching it as a science, it should be taught on equal footing.”

So to recap: Huffines supports private and religious schools at the expensive neighborhood public schools and wants those underfunded public schools to teach junk science to students. That’s not the way to make Texas competitive in the 21st century.

Huffines faces only a Libertarian on the November ballot.