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Sharply divided Senate gives preliminary approval to voucher bill

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The author of this entry is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or
April 20, 2015 | 3,412 views | 22 comments

A sharply divided Texas Senate gave preliminary but not final approval this afternoon to a voucher bill, SB 4, aiming to divert $100 million from already-underfunded public schools to subsidize private schools that do not have to meet state accountability standards. The vote to allow debate on the bill was 18 to 12, just one short of the 13 dissenting votes that would have blocked consideration of the bill. The vote to pass the bill on second reading was 17 to 13. The bill still must pass on a third vote tomorrow. Texas AFT President Louis Malfaro offered this assessment of today’s action:

Today’s action on vouchers in the Texas Senate shows that a majority of senators seem ready to steer dollars away from the state treasury to unaccountable private schools even as the state continues the chronic underfunding of our public schools. But the sharp division in the Senate on this issue also shows that this voucher program is not a done deal by any means.

A series of four Senate votes on proposed amendments laid bare some of the deep flaws in this voucher scheme, including: the utter lack of academic accountability of the private schools that would benefit; the leeway for private schools to discriminate against students they don’t want to accept; their ability to use curriculum such as the Common Core that is prohibited in Texas public schools; and the private schools’ leeway to decline to provide necessary services for students with disabilities--services that public schools by law must provide.

Rest assured that Texas House members are paying attention and taking note of the feeble excuses offered by the Senate author, Sen. Larry Taylor of Friendswood, for refusing to repair these defects in his bill. When and if this bill crosses the Capitol rotunda to the House, this legislation will face a level of critical scrutiny it is unlikely to survive.

Meanwhile, citizens who want to speak out against this voucher scheme can still do so by calling their senators to oppose this giveaway of public funds to unaccountable private schools.

Some of the major problems with this or any other voucher scheme are worth noting at this key juncture in the legislative process:

--Whether by diverting tax dollars from the state treasury via tax credits, as in SB 4, or draining the treasury with outright grants, voucher schemes would subsidize private schooling and reduce the funds available for neighborhood public schools that are already underfunded.

--Texas cannot afford to fund two school systems, one public and one private, when public schools already are shortchanged. Texas remains near the bottom of the states in per-pupil funding for public schools and far below pre-recession funding levels per pupil adjusted for inflation.

--Vouchers would take revenue out of public schools but would not reduce their costs proportionately for teachers and facilities. Granting vouchers to students who have been in private school or home school all along would drain even more dollars from the state treasury that are needed to strengthen public education.

--Under this voucher bill, private schools would not be required to meet state curriculum requirements or maintain the same fiscal accountability as public schools. Schools that receive taxpayer dollars should be accountable for how they are spent, but the schools that receive vouchers would not be accountable to taxpayers.

--Economically disadvantaged parents would not be able to use a voucher unless they could afford to pay the difference between the voucher amount and the actual tuition, in addition to the cost of transportation. Taxpayer funds diverted from the state treasury would pay the price for vouchers that would primarily go to those who could afford expensive private schools.

--SB 4, like other forms of vouchers, also would cross the line into state-directed funding for private religious education--something prohibited by the state constitution.
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Your Opinions and Comments

Bob Pritts  
St Hedwig, TX  
April 24, 2015 3:22pm
Also, keep in mind that the majority of the Senators, and later the Representatives, who oppose this bill, are likely receiving bribes (special interest monies) from the AFT on other education issues that come up during legislative... More ›

Bob Pritts  
St Hedwig, TX  
April 24, 2015 10:18am
Senior Citizen, You hit the nail on the head with the first response on this commentary. He's worried he will lose many of his teacher members to private schools. Translation ... he and others in the AFT hierarchy will be... More ›

Lodi, Texas  
April 24, 2015 5:53am
Senior Citizen ... Regardless of how you cloak your resentment of those who have the benefit of receiving more, it is still ENVY. Your type of reasoning is the root cause of much self pity that pervades our culture. Of... More ›

Senior Citizen  
Wilson County  
April 23, 2015 8:34pm
Duke, You must be kidding. It's not class envy. The politicians are making themselves a privileged class. Class envy is when folks envy those who have more because they have EARNED more.

Lodi, Texas  
April 23, 2015 6:46pm
Mr. Tibbs .... I read my comment a couple of times just to make sure that I never mentioned the word 'entitlement'. Deci Murphy .... Your resentment about the pensions of the political class certainly has the echo of the... More ›

Kicaster Creek  
April 23, 2015 5:15pm
Deci Murphy & Mr. Tibbs ... First, the Social Security portion taxes withheld from your wages or salary were not put into an individual account bearing your name. Those taxes were used to pay benefits to those already... More ›

Deci Murphy  
Floresville, TX  
April 23, 2015 1:50pm
Don't you dare call the pittance I am returned after the years I "donated" into soc sec - not when the idiots in Washington get full pay for the remainder of their lives after a very brief time of "service"... More ›

Mr. Tibbs  
April 23, 2015 1:10pm
duke... the same old tired argument about social security and medicare being entitlement programs is misplaced.. social security while it isn't exactly one to one, the majority of folks worked many years and contributed to what... More ›

Lodi, Texas  
April 23, 2015 11:48am
Deci .... If you spawn too many welfare generations, who will support the older generation on social security? :-)

Senior Citizen  
Wilson County  
April 23, 2015 11:18am
Underfunded public schools, indeed ... There are some awesome teachers, but more money is not the answer to everything.

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