Private-School Vouchers Struggle for Traction

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is pressing hard for passage of a private-school voucher bill, SB 3, this week in the Texas Senate where he presides. The latest word is that he and bill author Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) are cooking up a substitute, to be unveiled with minimal advance notice on the Senate floor, for the version of the bill that was passed in committee. Pursuing this hide-the-ball strategy means that there will be little time to analyze the revised version and gauge the bill’s true cost before the Senate votes. And of course there will be no chance for witnesses to testify on what is expected to be a substantially altered bill.

Still, we know enough already about what’s coming to say Patrick’s voucher scheme by any other name and in any other guise is still a voucher scheme. SB 3, we are advised, will still propose two types of vouchers–elaborate contrivances called “tax credit scholarships” and “education savings accounts” designed to get around state constitutional barriers to the giveaway of public funds to private religious and secular schools with no public accountability. At a time when the Senate budget proposal would reduce by $1.4 billion the amount of state general revenue for public schools, Lt. Gov. Patrick by hook or by crook wants to drain away still more state revenue for the benefit of unaccountable private schools.

Even if Patrick gets his way in the Senate, the legislation still faces high hurdles in the House. In that chamber  of the Legislature, budget plans and proposed school-funding increases reflect the right priority–providing resources for publicly accountable neighborhood schools to help students meet state requirements. That commonsense priority leaves no room for funneling public money to unaccountable private-school operators. Keep up the fight against vouchers by contacting your area lawmakers now!

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