Texas Senator Don Huffines, a Dallas Republican, defended his support for private school vouchers in a meeting with Richardson students and PTA members on Monday. The situation was testy, to say the least. Huffines apologized the next day, but added that the PTA members were “liberal activists”:
Huffines’s exchange with the students and PTA won’t be the last time that you’ll hear about school choice during this legislative session. The private school voucher debate comes in several forms this year, whether it is education savings accounts that receive state taxpayer payments or school credits, they all add up to using money now dedicated to the public schools to underwrite the expenses of private schools and home schooling. Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick support the concept. Patrick says the system would not cost the public schools because it is just tax dollars following the students no matter where they are studying. Patrick spoke earlier this session to a pro-voucher rally. Sharing has been disabled, so you’ll have to click here to see the video.
Senate Bill 3 says it is about setting up an education savings account for parents. However, the account is just a pass-through for state taxpayer dollars to pay for private schools or home school expenses. In the first year, a child’s school district will receive half the money it would have received if the child had attended a public school.
Sec.29.358. AMOUNT OF PAYMENT; FINANCING, (a) A parent of an eligible child shall receive each year that the child participates in the program a payment from the state to the child’s account…
Voucher-style programs usually are opposed by education groups who believe they will drain money from the public schools. Rural residents also are often opposed because there are few private schools in those areas, but those concerns could extend to cities. The Dallas Morning News recently found that there are few private schools in the poor neighborhoods of Dallas, which means that the Abbott/Patrick plan, supposedly aimed so low-income families have an alternative to failing schools, wouldn’t do much to help. Be sure to go to the article and check out the graphic that shows the concentration of private schools in wealthy north Dallas.
How much choice families really have still depends largely on where they live, a Dallas Morning News analysis found…
Dallas County has more than 30,000 children attending about 100 accredited private schools. The majority are clustered in wealthier areas of North and East Dallas, the News’ analysis of education and demographic data shows.
Meanwhile, entire swaths of southern Dallas County lack a single private school. These poorer neighborhoods have lots of low-rated public schools — the very schools that voucher supporters say they want to help kids escape.
Not all conservatives are supporting the measure. Some homeschoolers started teaching their children themselves or in groups to avoid the state-mandated studies told the Texas Tribune that they fear government money will mean government regulations.
“I’m a lifelong conservative. I’ve voted Republican all my life. To find myself on the opposite side of the Heritage Foundation and the opposite of [U.S. Sen.] Ted Cruz — it’s very shocking and concerning to me,” Truesdell said.
She and the organization’s more than 6,000 members fear state-funded homeschooling would ultimately take away their freedom, opening the door to regulation of their textbooks and curricula. Texas law currently considers homeschooling to be private education and imposes just a few basic regulations.
“If it’s state-funded and state-approved materials, it’s not homeschooling,” Truesdell said.
Meanwhile, public education advocates are trying to make their case against vouchers. Raise Your Hand Texas is a general pro-public education lobby group that has opposed vouchers for several legislative sessions. The following video, similar to others they’ve produced in the past, was published this year to explain the different language used for school vouchers.