One thing is certain about whatever Ted Cruz may claim he has “accomplished” for public education during his time in the U.S. Senate: educators and school children can’t afford more of the same.
First, he voted to confirm Betsy DeVos as the most ill-informed, under-qualified secretary of education in the history of the department. Had Cruz cared enough about public schools and educators and voted against her, DeVos wouldn’t be actively trying to lay waste to public education today. Remember, the Senate confirmation vote was 50-50, and Vice President Pence broke the tie in favor of DeVos.
Cruz clearly is on DeVos’ school privatization program. Within a year after voting for her, Cruz succeeded in doing what Dan Patrick has failed to do in Texas. He won congressional approval of a private school voucher program. It was in the form of an amendment to President Trump’s tax bill. Cruz’s amendment expands the tax-exempt 529 college savings account to cover as much as $10,000 a year in tuition or expenses for elementary and secondary students in religious or other private schools.
This tax break will benefit mainly upper-income families and some in the middle. But it will ignore low-income parents and increase the inequities in educational opportunities, while reducing the amount of federal aid available for educating low-income and disabled children. Cruz also attempted to give the same vouchers to parents who homeschool their children, but that part of his amendment was struck on a procedural issue.
Now, Cruz is back in Texas in the closing days of what he hopes is a reelection campaign, and he is promoting charter schools. He will be talking later today to the Texas Charter Schools conference in Houston. Technically, charters are public schools because they receive our tax dollars. But corporate-style charter chains, which have begun to dominate the charter landscape, are first cousins to private schools, and they are taking millions of tax dollars from under-funded public school districts.
Cruz was scheduled to discuss “his perspective on the federal role in education, his education priorities, and how those priorities would impact Texas.”
Cruz’s perspective on public education is the same as Betsy DeVos’and Dan Patrick’s – under-fund it and then privatize it. TSTA is supporting Beto O’Rourke in the Senate race. O’Rourke will boost public education, not tear it down.