Texas Senate Mugs Public Schools, Gives Preliminary Approval to Private School Vouchers

by Dan Quinn

Today the Texas Senate mugged the state’s public schools and their millions of students by providing preliminary approval to a reckless private school voucher bill. But the debate revealed some dirty truths that voucher supporters would prefer folks not know about the bill.

Senators gave approval to Senate Bill 4 on second reading. SB 4 would give tax credits to wealthy interests that provide vouchers subsidizing tuition at private and religious schools. Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller released the following statement:

“Neighborhood public schools and the millions of Texas kids who attend them just got mugged on the floor of the Texas Senate. The Senate should have fully restored the billions of dollars this Legislature cut from our neighborhood schools just four years ago. But instead they gave preliminary approval to a reckless and unaccountable voucher scheme that provides tax breaks for wealthy interests that take funds from public education in order to subsidize private and religious schools. The Texas Legislature is charged with providing a quality education for every child in our state. It seems today our senators forgot their obligation.”

The Senate vote was 17-13 in favor of SB 4. Final passage requires a third reading, which will probably follow in the next day or so.

In the lead up to the vote, the Senate debate and rejected a series of amendments:

  • One amendment would have barred private schools that take the tax-subsidized vouchers from discriminating against students. So SB 4 opens the door to tax-subsidized discrimination based on characteristics such as race, religion, gender and sexual orientation.
  • Another amendment would have ensured that students with disabilities who use these tax-subsidized vouchers receive the same rights and services in private schools that they would in public schools.
  • Yet another amendment would have required private schools taking tax-subsidized vouchers to meet the same education standards public schools must meet.

Republicans who supported SB 4 voted down all of those amendments. But the debate revealed dirty truths about government-subsidized private school vouchers. Private schools that take these vouchers can discriminate against students and their families for any reason. They don’t have to meet the same standards to which public schools are held. And students with disabilities are left out in the cold.

Angry by the Senate’s mugging of public education? Make sure your senator hears about it before the Senate votes on SB 4 in third reading. Click here to find the name of your senator and his or her contact information.