Day: <span>January 26, 2017</span>

No, governor, a voucher is not a civil right


Gov. Greg Abbott’s claim at the pro-voucher rally this week that vouchers were a “civil right” was blatantly untrue. It also was an insult to millions of Texans, especially disadvantaged children and members of minority groups whose real civil rights he has neglected and, in some cases, actively violated.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the governor’s partner in careless rhetoric, also has made the “civil right” claim about vouchers. I don’t know if he did at the rally, but he nevertheless waxed hypocritical, as he often does, before the crowd.

Taking public tax dollars from public schools to spend on private school vouchers for a handful of selected children is no one’s civil right by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, private school vouchers were widely promoted in response to the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954, as a way to circumvent the Supreme Court’s desegregation order and continue violating the civil rights of African American students.

The Texas Constitution says nothing about vouchers and doesn’t promote private schools. It also prohibits the expenditure of state funds on religious institutions, and many private schools have religious affiliations.

The Texas Constitution, however, does require the Legislature to provide for a system of free public schools, a responsibility – call it a real civil right — on which the governor and the legislative majority have woefully under-performed by putting a priority on tax cuts and privatization over adequate school funding.

Abbott’s false claim about a “civil right” to school privatization was even more galling in light of his failed record on some important – and authentic — civil rights to which his constituents are entitled.

Disadvantaged, vulnerable kids in foster homes are entitled to the state’s best efforts to assure their safety and well-being. Abbott, Patrick and the legislative majority are miserably failing their responsibility to these children and have been for a long time. Abbott is outraged when children die from abuse and neglect, and he says he wants to do better. But so far he and legislators haven’t devoted enough resources to help Child Protective Services do the job it must do.

Voting also is a basic civil right that Abbott and Patrick have violated for thousands of Texans, primarily minority and elderly people, by supporting an oppressive voter ID law that was expressly designed to discourage Democratic-leaning voters from going to the polls. Their claim about fighting voter “fraud” is a pretense, which Abbott has all but admitted.

In an interview on Fox News this week, Abbott said he prosecuted about 50 cases of alleged voter fraud during eight years as attorney general — 50 cases out of millions of votes cast during his tenure. His claims of widespread voter fraud are “alternative facts” that have been given a “pants on fire” rating by Politifact.

Patrick told the pro-voucher rally that blocking a vote on a voucher bill was “blocking the future of that child, of that family, of that American dream.”

The claim was untrue and, coming from Patrick, hypocritical. Patrick has made a political career of blocking or jeopardizing the futures of countless Texas children with his war on public schools, including votes to cut school funding.

Bottom line: Don’t believe everything you hear at a pro-voucher rally, especially if Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick are among the head-liners.