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

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.

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

  1. Huffines will be elected and if his sectarian policies become law, Texas public school education will further deteriorate. Texas Tea Party Republicans seem determined to take Texas into the dustbin of history.

    BTW, tax-credit voucher schemes are a new way Radical Religious Right Republicans have devised to provide private sectarian school vouchers paid for by tax money from all Texas citizens, two-thirds of whom are opposed to private school voucher programs. Rather than create a program of direct state-funded vouchers which are often struck down by courts because the laws of most states forbid state financial support of sectarian institutions (Texas is one such state), the new scheme is designed to sneak by state courts (through the “back door,” as Dan phrases it) because the money travels to sectarian religious schools indirectly from private businesses who get their money back from the states via tax rebates courtesy of the conniving legislators. The final result is the same–citizen tax money is still used to fund sectarian schools, because their tax money must be used to make-up the money given by the state back to businesses as tax rebates–but the hope is that conservative judges will use the indirect route to legally allow the voucher scheme. It’s all done with smoke and mirrors and of course the Texas tax-payer gets screwed. Only the extreme Fundamentalist Protestants and Catholics with their extensive networks of parochial schools will benefit.

  2. I forgot to add one other outrage about this tax-rebate voucher scheme (or any voucher system): public schools will be damaged and will deteriorate. Religious Right Republicans claim that since businesses are supporting private sectarian schools with grant money, the public schools will sustain no net loss of state money for their operation. Only fools would believe this lie. In fact, since the cooperating businesses expect to get their convenient grant money back via tax rebates, the state will net less money from taxes. This loss must either be made up by higher taxes (fat chance) or taken from some already existing account, and you already know which state program will suffer less state financing when state tax receipts decrease. Also, public schools are financially supported by the state on the basis of their student population size (that’s why maximizing school attendance is so important for school districts: student attendance is their life blood for state money). If the new tax-rebate voucher scheme is supported by state courts, the parochial school systems (and likely also secular private school systems, of which several exist now as charter schools–KIPP, Harmony, etc.) will grow enormously and suck in students from the public school districts, thus reducing their student populations and depriving them of an enormous amount of state financial support. This will debilitate education services to all the remaining students, essentially causing the deterioration of public schools in Texas and hurting primarily the children of poor and working class families. If the tax-rebate voucher scheme succeeds, it won’t be a pretty sight.

    Also, I might add that attacking a newly-authorized tax-rebate voucher scheme through the federal court system is problematic. The Supreme Court has already ruled in a 5-4 decision (Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 2002) that state private school voucher programs are legal and don’t violate the Establishment Clause if five conditions are met (valid secular purpose; money goes to parents, not schools; no student discrimination; religiously neutral; adequate nonreligious options exist; even private sectarian schools are able to meet these restrictions through a variety of ploys!). That’s why Louisiana and Florida can have state private religious school voucher plans now with direct state financing. So what is holding Radical Religious Right-wing Republican-controlled Texas back? It seems that rural Texas legislators like their public schools and don’t want to see them hurt. Several years ago, when my extremist State Representative, Tom Craddick, was Speaker of the House, the 4Rs made a deliberate and sincere effort to enact a direct-pay state voucher system, but it narrowly lost due to opposition by Democratic and rural Republican Legislators and it’s never been attempted again. Today, 4Rs don’t think they’ll need to go that route to get what they want. They expect Dan Patrick to be our next Lt. Governor and get the House to go along with a supermajority. They may be right.

  3. I also think students should be aware of creationism as well. So that they know what is not science, and how ignorant politicians are trying to erode science education, and turn this country into a laughing stock.

  4. A bad public school on a bad day is better than any good day would be at a private school system established for all Texas children by any stripe of conservative Baptist church. Vouchers are the first step in their quest to destroy public schools so parents will have no other real choice but to send their children to a private Baptist school system that will be—just miraculously—waiting in the wings.

    1) If all you Catholics families in Texas want your children to be told every day that the pope is the Satanic leader of a worldwide system of religious evil, go ahead and vote for vouchers.

    2) If all you mainline protestants want your children to be told every school day that your church is a tool of Satan and that God will burn you for reading any version of the Bible except the KJV, go ahead and vote for vouchers.

    3) If all you black people in Texas want your children to enter a school system especially designed not to educate your African-American child but rather to work on “civilizing” him as if he is a savage,out-of-control, grass hut native that preys like a wild animal on American white people, go ahead and vote for vouchers and those “special schools” they want to establish just for your children.

    4) If all you Texas cowboys/cowgirls and good old boys/girls who do not attend church on Sunday but like a good, cold beer with your chili dog, go ahead and vote for vouchers. This will be the first step towards a private Baptist school system that will tell your children that mommy and daddy are bad, bad, bad people because they drink alcoholic beverages, love line dancing, and do a little mild carousing on Saturday night.

    Vouchers are the first step down a slippery slope to an all Baptist dictatorship over education in Texas, and your loved one’s face is painted at the bullseye on their target.

    Mark my word–sheeza comin’ if you vote for vouchers.