The vouchers are coming - more Koch money in Texas

Posted in 82nd Legislature, Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Education, Had Enough Yet?, Public Schools, Right Wing Lies, Take Action, The Lege at 9:47 pm by wcnews

It’s not surprising that this the wing nuts are breaking out their voucher scheme to defund public education at the last minute. They even have a fancy Orwellian name for them, see if you can pick it out. Via Texas AFT’s Legislative Hotline, Battle Stations! Private-School Vouchers Plus Attacks on Class-Size Caps, Pay Standards, and Contract Safeguards Are on House Agenda Tomorrow—Call Your State Rep!

The Sid Miller voucher amendment, labeled “The Taxpayers’ Savings Grant Program,” would drain dollars from the Foundation School Program for public schools under the cynical pretense of saving taxpayers money, by handing out vouchers to transfer to private school instead of educating schoolchildren in our neighborhood public schools. The false pretense of savings is based on the idea that the voucher amount would be less than the full cost of educating each student in our public schools.

Among other things, here’s what’s wrong with this scheme:

–How can lawmakers even think of creating a VOUCHER ENTITLEMENT PROGRAM at a time when public school budgets are being cut?
–Vouchers don’t save money or help public schools. They divert scarce dollars and drain resources from our already-underfunded public schools. Public schools would be left with fixed costs for required personnel, programs, and infrastructure but with even fewer dollars to fund them.
–These vouchers would not cover the full cost of private tuition and would chiefly serve as tuition subsidies for high-income families.
–Either you’re for accountability or you’re not. The Sid Miller voucher scheme would subsidize with taxpayer dollars private schools that are unaccountable to taxpayers for their financial integrity or for academic quality. The Sid Miller amendment includes zero accountability—zip, nada, no standards, no regulations—for the schools that would receive these taxpayer-funded vouchers. These schools would not face state-approved academic standards, would not have to make their budgets public, would not have to adhere to open-meetings or open-records laws, would not have to publicly report on student achievement, and would not face the public accountability requirements contained in state and federal law, including special-education laws for students with disabilities. These schools also would not have to accept all students—unlike public schools, which must accept all comers.

And the usual list of so-called “free market” wing nuts, with the Koch-fund group a the top of the list, are lining up to support and bankroll this scheme. More from Texas Freedom Network, Voucher Lobby Targets Texas Public Schools.

Backing the measure is a virtual “who’s who” of anti-public education activists, including the Texas Home School Coalition, Liberty Institute and Tea Party activists. They and their legislative allies are shamelessly claiming that this voucher scheme will save the state money. That’s absurd. The state would be on the hook for the costs of students transferring to private schools as well as students who weren’t even enrolled in public schools to begin with. Moreover, public school districts face costs — such as maintenance and debt — that aren’t determined solely by enrollment numbers. So supposed cost savings from students leaving public schools are exaggerated at best.

In short, this huge loss in funding — on top of deep and painful budget cuts already in the works — would be catastrophic for neighborhood public schools and the students who remain in those classrooms. Who will those students be? Likely low- and middle-income families that can’t afford to cover the gap between the value of a voucher and the actual cost of private school tuition. And how big a hit to public schools are we talking about? Analysts estimated that a proposed voucher scheme in 2005 that was limited to just eight urban school districts could have drained about $600 million from public schools. This new and unlimited voucher scheme could siphon tax dollars from public schools in every district — rural, suburban and urban — across Texas. The numbers will add up fast.

Legislators in 2007 and 2009 voted overwhelmingly to bar spending any taxpayer dollars on vouchers for private and religious schools. But anti-public education forces regrouped after the November 2010 elections and now are moving to defund the very public schools that educate the vast majority of Texas kids. Even worse, this voucher scheme would send public tax dollars to private and religious schools that are unaccountable to taxpayers. In fact, the proposed amendment includes no standards or regulations at all for schools that take these publicly funded vouchers – it’s simply a tax-dollar giveaway.

Make no mistake — the future of public education in Texas is on the line. Call your representative in the Texas House and insist that he or she vote against this irresponsible voucher scheme. You can find the name of your representative and contact information here.

Again this shouldn’t surprise anyone. This is something the Texas GOP tried to ram through in 2003, the last time that had a large majority in the House. They know they won’t have this big of a majority two years form now, and they’ve already broke tradition in both chambers so they might as well go all the way.

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