Day: <span>July 26, 2016</span>

Another idea for ripping off schools and taxpayers


Add another organization to the list of advocates trying to rip off taxpayers and shortchange millions of school children under the guise of education “reform.”

The new group, Texans for Education Opportunity, will promote various so-called “school choice” alternatives. Its main goal is to create “education savings accounts” – another name for vouchers — that would give tax dollars to parents, as much as $7,800 per year per child, to spend on private school tuition, private tutors or even books and other materials for homeschooling.

It’s a bad idea, which means it – or something very similar – also will be promoted by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the advocate-in-chief for vouchers and any number of other bad school privatization schemes. As he has made clear by words and deeds on numerous occasions, Patrick would rather take money from public schools than adequately fund them. And that is exactly what this plan would do.

Thomas Ratliff, a Republican member of the State Board of Education, has accurately described the proposal as an entitlement program. At $7,800 per child, he said, it would cost taxpayers $4.7 billion a year for the 600,000 kids who already attend private schools or are home-schooled. And it would do nothing to fulfill the state’s obligation under the Texas Constitution to provide a system of free public schools to its children.

In fact, it would weaken our already under-funded public schools by diverting more money from them, even though public schools will continue to educate the vast majority of Texas school children.

It’s a selfish, shortsighted idea.

In an article published in Quorum Report, Ratliff also warned that some alleged “home-schoolers” would pull their children out of school and use their state education debit cards issued under the program to put money into their own pockets while ignoring their children’s education. If you think people like that don’t exist, think again.

“The state will then pay again, either to remediate those kids or absorb the social costs of welfare, prison, etc. due to their lack of education,” he wrote.

Ratliff also noted that the term “education savings account” was misleading because many families don’t pay as much as $7,800 per year per child in taxes. Instead, it’s an entitlement.

“This idea takes the word ‘entitlement’ to a whole new level for Texas,” he said. “It is nothing more than a huge handout with no way to control the price tag. Hardly a conservative idea.”