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Saturday, January 29, 2005

January 29, 2005 News on Vouchers in Texas

TO: Coalition for Public Schools Organizations
FROM: Carolyn Boyle

All signs are showing that a major piece of legislation which includes private school vouchers will start moving in the Texas House of Representatives soon, and Governor Rick Perry will be its chief cheerleader. The governor used the "State of the State" speech January 26 as his platform to call for vouchers, saying, "Every child is entitled to a public education, but public education is not entitled to every child. Let's give children who need a second chance new choices that can forever change their future. Let's give them school choice."

According to insider reports, leaders in the Texas House are polling members on their first choice among three approaches to public school finance, and all three include vouchers. Vouchers also may be included in a "school reform" bill that is expected to be filed in the House next week. House Speaker Tom Craddick told a Texas Public Policy Foundation audience Thursday that House members "aren't going to play" with the school reform bill--they will just "make decisions and go on." H.B. 12, a proposed voucher pilot program in urban areas, also is expected to start moving soon.
The Texas Senate did not include vouchers in its consensus outline for Senate Bill 2, an omnibus bill on public school excellence and school finance reform. But even if there is no Senate voucher legislation, amendments that fund private school tuition could be proposed on the Senate floor.

WRITE YOUR LEGISLATORS IN OPPOSITION TO VOUCHERS

Voucher legislation is expected to move quickly, so NOW is the time for public school supporters to write LETTERS (not email) to their state representatives and senators. (We'll urge activists to make phone calls at a later date when there are bill numbers and key dates for action) If you do not know who represents you in the Texas Legislature, go to http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/fyi/fyi.htm
Addresses are:
Representatives: Texas House of Representatives, P.O. Box 2910, Austin, Texas 78768-2910
Senators: Texas Senate, P.O. Box 12068-Capitol Station, Austin, Texas 78711

A FEW POINTS YOU COULD MAKE (but please personalize your letters)

-- Legislators should solve the problems with our state's school finance system and not get distracted by divisive, ill-conceived schemes that would take away money from neighborhood public schools. Vouchers would just create new school finance problems.

-- A voucher pilot program in urban areas would be a new "Robin Hood" that takes tax money from rural and suburban public schools to subsidize private, religious, and forprofit academies in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio.

-- H.B. 12 proposes a new "school stamp" program, giving a private school tuition voucher to every urban child from a low income family who fails any section of the TAKS test. Legislators must be fiscally conservative and not create a new, unaffordable entitlement program. Plus, the TAKS test should not be turned into a voucher eligibility test.

-- Legislators should vote against any bill that uses our limited public funds to subsidize private schools and home schools.

-- There are only 3 neighborhood public schools in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Austin ISDs that were rated low-performing for two consecutive rating years. The consistently failing schools are charter schools, which must either improve or be closed by the state.

Thank you for making letter-writing a priority, and please encourage your family and friends to write letters, too!!
***********************************************************
Coalition for Public Schools, 1005 Congress Avenue, Suite 550, Austin, Texas 78701-2491, (512) 474-9765, Fax: (512) 474-2507, Carolyn Boyle, Coordinator
email: cboyleaust@aol.com www.coalition4publicschools.org

The Coalition for Public Schools is comprised of 40 education, child advocacy, community, and religious organizations representing more than 3,000,000 members in Texas. Founded in 1995, CPS opposes expenditure of public funds to support private and religious schools through mechanisms such as tuition vouchers, franchise tax credits, and property tax credits. The Coalition believes public tax dollars should be spent only to improve neighborhood public schools, which serve more than 94 percent of all Texas children.

Coalition for Public Schools groups are: American Association of University Women, American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, Americans for Religious Liberty, Americans United for Separation of Church & State, Anti-Defamation League, Association of Texas Professional Educators, Delta Kappa Gamma Texas, Jewish Federation of San Antonio Community Relations Council, League of United Latin American Citizens, League of Women Voters of Texas, Let Freedom Ring, National Council of Jewish Women, Parents for Public Schools of Houston, People for the American Way, Texas Advocacy Inc., Texas AFL-CIO, Texas Association for Bilingual Education, Texas Association of Community Schools, Texas Association of Mid-Size Schools, Texas Association of School Administrators, Texas Association of School Boards, Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators, Texas Association of Secondary School Principals, Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, Texas Classroom Teachers Association, Texas Council of Administrators of Special Education, Texas Counseling Association, Texas Educational Support Staff Association, Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association, Texas Federation of Teachers, Texas Freedom Network, Texas Impact, Texas Parents and Teachers Association, Texas Retired Teachers Association, Texas Rural Education Association, Texas School Public Relations Association, Texas State Teachers Association, The Arc of Texas.

15 comments:

  1. In regards to legislation on voucher schools:

    This morning NPR had a small piece on how some legislators have deviced a way to introduce some of the bills that pertain to public education in a way that does not threaten the possibility of getting vouchers approved.

    It should not surprise anyone that this session, the governor and his allies in the Capitol will push for the privatization of public education through vouchers.

    Touted as "educational choice," one should wonder who is given the choice here? Not wealthy families, because they already have their students in private schools. Not families below the poverty level because once you have 2-3 jobs is very unlikely that you have the time, means and knowledge to make sure that your child is actually receiving the best education there is.

    So who benefits here? Presumably, and that's how Hispanic Creo and the Black Alliance for Educational Options like to portray it, minority students. We assume minority students whose parents still have some way to "be engaged" in their children's education. Parents who can take a full day off from work to go on a tour (with Hispanic Creo representatives) of different private and very wealthy schools who would like to extend the "choice" to students who look a bit different than the ones in their schools. Schools that are hungry for a few brown and Black faces because at this age in time it does not look good to have all white and wealthy schools.

    Vouchers and the establishment of publicly funded private academies (also known as charter schools)are premised on specific values. I remember a while ago speaking to one of the heads of Kipp Academy, one of these enterprises in Houston. He was pointing to their success in getting "these children" (Latinos in this case) "out of those neighborhoods". The presumption here is that our culture is deficient and that the only way to "elevate these children” is to take them away from those rotten neighborhoods. They don't have to say it that way. It is understood.

    The racism of all these proposals (vouchers and charters alike) is clear. While proponents of these policies will argue otherwise, pointing to the fact that they are seeking to provide choice to minority students, the reality is different.

    Minority students who go to charters will find themselves attending schools which have been rated low performance (at least in the cases of Texas’ fourth largest cities).

    Minority students attending private academies will find themselves attending schools where few students look like them or have any similar experiences. They will go to the school with the burden that their education is "subsidized" thanks to those who decided there was a need for "some" diversity.

    Either way minority students are failed by the system. A system that works. YES, it works for those who want to keep these students "in their place." As Ms. Salazar pointed in article on vouchers, with real access to education and the possibilities of earning a college degree “they might move next door!” As someone said to me once, after hearing me speak on the importance of higher education for undocumented students: “Let’s suppose that all those people get an education, Who is going to pick up the trash? That, is the real question.

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