Sen. Charles Perry of Lubbock may think he fooled his constituents when he voted for a private school voucher bill that they don’t like. But the only person he may have outfoxed was himself.
Perry admitted that the voucher bill, Senate Bill 3, isn’t popular with rural residents of his district because they don’t see much benefit in taking tax dollars from their under-funded public schools so a small number of families somewhere else can spend that money with little accountability on private school tuition for their kids.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why. There aren’t many private schools for students in the Lubbock and surrounding rural area to attend, and transportation would be a problem. But bowing to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick over the preferences of his constituents, Perry voted for the bill anyway when it won Senate approval last week.
In an effort to provide himself some political cover, though, Perry agreed to support the bill only after it had been amended to prohibit students in counties with fewer than 285,000 residents from receiving vouchers. To make sure that Lubbock fell into the excluded rural category, Perry saw to it that the population count was based on the 2010 census, not the latest population estimates, because Lubbock has been growing.
By adopting this amendment, Perry claimed, he was sparing his constituents from a program they didn’t like. But guess what?
The amendment that keeps rural students from receiving vouchers won’t protect their parents and other rural taxpayers from paying taxes to send other people’s children to private schools in faraway Houston, Dallas or San Antonio, if the House also approves the voucher bill. State tax dollars from rural counties would pay for vouchers, just as tax dollars from cities would.
Perry’s constituents still will have to pay for a program they don’t want, even if their children can’t participate in it. And school funding for vouchers would be siphoned from Lubbock ISD and other rural districts as well as from urban and suburban districts throughout Texas.
“From a rural perspective, we don’t see a whole lot of benefit in it (a voucher program),” Perry admitted in an interview with the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
But he voted for it anyway.
What’s more, according to TSTA’s recent bipartisan poll, most urban and suburban voters of both parties don’t see much benefit in a voucher program either.
Let us hope House members do a better job of representing their constituents on the voucher bill – and bury it – than Perry and most of his Senate colleagues did.