It still takes two to tango in the Legislature. That is, both the House and the Senate have to approve a new law, and the House recorded a very strong 103-43 vote last week against spending tax dollars on private school vouchers. But Dan Patrick, the pro-school privatization champion who doubles as Senate Education Chairman, is still peddling the bad idea. He may not even have enough votes to get a voucher bill through the Senate, but his rhetoric has escalated into double-overdrive.
Double-overdrive? Yes, in Patrick’s case, there is such a thing.
The Senate Education Committee yesterday heard Patrick’s SB23, which would divert tax dollars from public to private schools through “tax credit scholarships,” another name for vouchers, and Sen. Donna Campbell’s SB1575, which would give a small number of families state aid to help pay tuition at private schools. The committee didn’t take any action on either bill, not yet, anyway.
Patrick characterized voucher opponents, such as TSTA, as “barriers of people who are against opportunity and competition.” Again, he is flat wrong.
For one thing, if religious and other private schools want to compete with public schools, they already can do so. But they have no business dipping into the public till to enrich their bottom line, and the Legislature has no business allowing that to happen.
And, what about opportunity? All privatization schemes to the contrary, the vast majority of Texas children will continue to be educated in traditional public schools, and that includes most of the low-income children for whom Patrick purports to offer hope. Public schools, not vouchers, are their opportunity for a successful future.
Instead of giving these children rhetoric, Patrick should start giving them the right kind of votes. Just two years ago, he undermined the most realistic educational opportunity most of these children will ever have when he joined his colleagues in the legislative majority to slash $5.4 billion from public school budgets.
At the very least, he now should put his privatization schemes aside and join the real education experts – teachers and others in the public school community – in demanding that the Legislature restore the full amount of the cuts, not just the partial amounts already approved by the House and the Senate.
If Patrick really wants to improve opportunities for school children, he should start talking about tapping the Rainy Day Fund, not creating vouchers or tax credits. The Rainy Day Fund has enough money to complete the job of making our real opportunity providers – the public schools – whole again.