For many years now, accountability has been the favorite buzz word used by groups and legislators opposed to adequately funding our under-funded public schools. Now, in the curtain-raiser on the latest effort to divert tax dollars from public schools for private school vouchers, accountability has been replaced with “competition.”
Some of the usual suspects – the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Texas Association of Business – were lined up in support as state Sen. Donna Campbell unveiled her voucher bill yesterday. The measure would provide state funding to students to attend accredited private schools of their families’ choice.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, Campbell and researcher Arthur Laffer brushed aside questions about whether the state’s low investment in public education contributed to under-achievement problems they allegedly are trying to address with vouchers. The Legislature still hasn’t fully restored all of the $5.4 billion cut from public school budgets four years ago, thousands of classrooms are still overcrowded and Texas spends, on average, less per student than all but a few other states. Plus, a state district judge has declared the school funding system inadequate, unfair and unconstitutional.
Never mind all that, the pro-voucher crowd claims. All public schools need in order to perform better, Laffer claimed, was more “competition” from private schools – private schools that, under Campbell’s bill, wouldn’t even be held to the same academic and financial standards as public schools. And, the voucher advocates want to take even more money from those public schools, which is where the vast majority of Texas school children will continue to be educated.
Campbell said the Legislature has a “moral obligation” to help children trapped in poor or under-performing public schools.
What the Legislature really has is a moral obligation to uphold the Texas Constitution. And a major constitutional obligation of legislators is to adequately and fairly fund the public schools, not weaken them by diverting public tax dollars to private school coffers.