At the Senate Education Committee hearing on education savings accounts – the latest incarnation of vouchers – TSTA lobbyist John Grey accurately summed up the prevailing atmosphere at the state Capitol toward public education.
“The Texas Legislature is starving our public schools and shaming them for not being healthy enough,” he said.
Grey testified after listening for several hours to privatization advocates peddle their version of snake oil, suggesting that the key to success for Texas school children was to siphon money from their already under-funded public schools to help a select group of parents pay private school tuition for their kids.
Privatization witnesses included a state senator from Nevada, who bragged about an education savings account program in his state. He almost forgot to tell the committee though that the program has yet to help a single child because a lower court judge has declared it unconstitutional. An appeal is pending before the Nevada Supreme Court.
Another privatization advocate testified that an education savings account would assure that the money is spent on a child, not on a building. His well-rehearsed buzz words ignored the reality that the education dollars that taxpayers spend on buildings – they are called school houses – actually do benefit children. And those tax dollars are spent under the direction of local school boards, who are accountable to voters, not by a few parents spending everyone’s tax dollars to benefit only their own children.
As the same witness put it, education savings accounts would allow a few parents to “customize” their children’s educations.
But the Texas Constitution doesn’t say anything about vouchers, education savings accounts, tax credit scholarships or any other form of privatizing or starving public schools. And it doesn’t say anything about spending everyone’s tax dollars to “customize” educations for a relative handful of kids.
Article 1, Section 7 of the Texas Constitution does require the Legislature “to establish or make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.” (Public, not private).
With Texas spending about $2,700 less on education per child than the national average, the legislative majority already is doing a poor job for school children. Education savings accounts and other forms of vouchers would only worsen that performance.