The Coalition for Public Schools has a simple and direct answer to the Senate’s bad idea of inserting a voucher program into a good House bill on school funding. That answer is: “No!” The Coalition, in which Texas AFT joins with dozens of other education and children’s advocacy groups, delivered a letter to the entire Senate today announcing opposition to the Senate’s draft committee substitute for HB 21, the bill by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston) to increase school funding. The ill-advised committee substitute could come to a vote in the full Senate before this week is out.
Not only does the Senate substitute insert a “poison pill” into HB 21 in the form of a voucher targeting students with disabilities, it also deletes the school funding increase! The Coalition letter makes the case against Senate Committee Substitute HB 21 by documenting four key points: CSHB 21 provides no additional state funding for our Texas public schools. CSHB 21 is a voucher bill that would drain state funds away from Texas public schools. Parents and students would give up their federal protections under an “education savings account” voucher. There is no accountability for “education savings account” vouchers under CSHB 21. And CSHB 21 violates the separation of church and state, actually requiring the state to pay for private educational services and materials with religious content.
The Coalition for Public Schools and yet more allies will fight to block this voucher ploy in the Senate as the legislative session heads toward adjournment on May 29. A voucher scheme that subtracts funds from our school districts has no place in a bill that is meant to increase aid to school districts. Indeed, vouchers that transfer public funds to private schools with no accountability have no place in Texas public policy.