Day: <span>February 15, 2023</span>

TEA official’s advocacy for vouchers shows callousness and disrespect for public school employees

You already may have read The Texas Tribune article (linked below) about the deputy state education commissioner who got caught on a recorded phone call advocating for vouchers. Of course, most people should know that a high-ranking Texas Education Agency official who is quite generously paid with our tax dollars has no business promoting our tax dollars for private schools. He knows it.

Instead, he is supposed to be doing everything he can to support and promote public schools, at least until if and/or when the Legislature actually enacts a voucher law, which may not happen. Sure, the governor and the lieutenant governor as well as some legislators want vouchers. But many legislators don’t and, along with public education advocates, are fighting this raid on public school funding tooth and nail.

Perhaps the worst thing about this TEA official’s voucher advocacy is the complete callousness and disrespect he displayed for teachers and other school employees.

“School districts, what they have to do if they lose a student, [is] be smart about how they allocate their resources, and maybe that’s one less fourth grade teacher,” he said in his phone conversation with an unidentified woman. How would he feel if this fourth grade teacher was a member of his own family?

If vouchers are enacted and funded to the extent that some legislators are proposing, many districts will lose more than one fourth grade teacher. Some districts could lose significant numbers of teachers and support staff, all people who are paid significantly less than this overpaid bureaucrat and are far more valuable to students than he is.

Well, these teachers could get jobs in private schools, some voucher advocates may say. Maybe, but many private schools pay their teachers even less than public schools. And the point is that, even with vouchers, the vast majority of Texas students will continue to be taught in public schools, which will become even more under-funded than they are now.

If anyone should lose a job, it should be this deputy TEA commissioner, but that probably won’t happen. And if it does, Gov. Greg Abbott should be happy to hire him. Or some wealthy voucher advocate.

The only plus thing, if you want to call it that, about this phone conversation is that it probably reveals the pro-voucher sentiment at the top of the TEA hierarchy. Commissioner Mike Morath has been careful about commenting on vouchers, suggesting neutrality, but he is a big promoter of corporate charter schools, which are first cousins of private schools, and they already get tax dollars.

In audio, high-ranking TEA official admits public school funds could drop with voucher-like programs

Clay Robison