Friday, April 7, 2017

TX GOP House Defeats School Vouchers

At the end of March, the Texas State Senate Education Committee voted in favor of School Vouchers.

The Voucher plan offered families Public Money to send their Children to Private and Religious Schools and headed to the full Texas Senate. Sen. Larry Taylor's Bill would create State-Subsidized Education Saving Accounts for parents while offering Tax Credits to businesses that sponsor Private Schooling via Donations.

The issue has long roiled the Legislature, with the Republican-led Senate backing so-called "School Choice" but such Plans stalling in the GOP-Controlled House. There, many Lawmakers worry about harming Public Schools that are the lifeblood of the Small Communities they represent.

As predicted, it failed big in the House, 103-44 today.

According to a piece in January in the Dallas Morning News this was supposed to be the year for success. Gov. Abbot was fully “on board”, attending the annual School Choice rally in Austin where thousands were expected back in January. “The momentum has really been growing over the last 10 years,” said Brendan Steinhauser, a Political Consultant who organized the event. “The biggest change in the last year is that the governor is on board, fully supportive and will be speaking at the rally.” And even though, “Opponents see any attempt to funnel money from public schools as an attack ”, this is most definitely the year for Vouchers in Texas.

The Political climate Nationally for Vouchers has never been more favorable. President Trump’s pick for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, is a vocal Supporter of School choice, having founded a National Group that pushes for Vouchers.

So what happened here?

Earlier this month, Superintendents and Trustees from 60 Dallas-area School Districts held a joint News Conference urging Lawmakers to keep Public Funds in Public Schools. Taking Money away will only hurt the State’s most vulnerable Children, who often can’t take advantage of options, even with assistance, they said.

Education Leaders have banded together in other parts of the State as well to voice similar opposition. They say Texas already has Choice within the Public School system, including Charter Schools and Specialized Campuses.

For example, Students can Transfer out of low-performing Campuses into better Public Schools under the State’s Public Education Grant program.

Charles Luke, a former Superintendent now Coordinating dozens of Groups across Texas for the Coalition for Public Schools, said Vouchers or similar programs like Education Savings Accounts would siphon billions of dollars away from Public Classrooms instead of using that money to improve them.

Stephanie Matthews, a Senior Policy Analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, insists that Education Savings Accounts are fundamentally different from Vouchers. “Instead of the money going directly to a school, they work more like a health savings account — a restricted-use debit card that goes straight into the hands of parents,” she said.

So, though this was supposed to be the golden opportunity, Voucher supporters lost big in the Texas State House today. 103-44 vote came during the House's larger Budget Debate and could kill a sweeping "School choice" Bill approved by the State Senate last week.

Republicans control both Chambers but while many Senators see Vouchers as a Civil Rights issue that helps poor Children leave failing Public Schools, the House has repeatedly Defeated any proposal that could hurt funding for Traditional Classrooms.

House Democrats opposing Vouchers typically team with Republicans from Rural communities, where Schools are top Employers as well as Social Centers offering football and other popular activities.

Anticipating opposition, the Senate Voucher Bill exempted Communities with fewer than 285,000 Residents. But overwhelming House opposition didn't wavier.

The presence of Betsy De Vos as the Country’s new Education Secretary and her major drive for Vouchers made no difference in Texas today.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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