Friday, February 18, 2005

Another huge, expensive, private school voucher bill ...

TO: Coalition for Public Schools Organizations
FROM: Carolyn Boyle

Another huge, expensive, private school voucher bill has been filed in the Texas House of Representatives, H.B. 1263. Co-authors of the bill are Representatives Linda Harper-Brown (R-Irving), Jodi Laubenberg (R-Parker), and Carl Isett (R-Lubbock). You may read the text at:

I'll have more details in the coming days, but here are the highlights:

-- It is an urban voucher pilot program in counties with a population of 800,000 or more. That would include the counties of Harris (Houston), Dallas, Tarrant (Fort Worth), Bexar (San Antonio), and Travis (Austin).

-- A school district would be required to participate in the voucher pilot program if: (a) the district is the largest district in the county in which a majority of the students are educationally disadvantaged OR (b) at least 90 percent of the students in the district were educationally disadvantaged during the preceding school year.
(NOTE: I'll have a list of affected districts as soon as possible. The second criteria would bring in smaller districts. For example, in Bexar County it is likely that the districts mandated to distribute vouchers would include San Antonio ISD, Edgewood ISD, Harlandale ISD, and South San Antonio ISD. Under the bill, charter school districts in the five counties also would be required to distribute vouchers if 90 percent of the students are disadvantaged. This might make it possible for some charter schools to convert to become unregulated private schools funded with vouchers.)

-- Following are the children eligible for a voucher: A student who has dropped out of school OR a student who attended a public school for the majority of the preceding semester or is starting school for the first time; AND meets one or more of the following criteria:
a. Meets the definition in Texas Education Code 29.081 of "at risk of dropping out of school," which is wide-ranging, including: did not pass any section of the TAKS test, did not pass a readiness test in PreK-3rd grade, failed two subjects during a semester, is pregnant or a parent, has been placed in an alternative education program, has been expelled, is on parole or probation, is homeless, etc.
b. Is in kindergarten through grade 12 and is eligible to participate in a district's special education program
c. Is a student of limited English proficiency
d. Resides in a household whose income did not exceed 200% of the qualifying income for a reduced-price lunch
e. Is the victim or is the sibling of a victim of certain acts of violence.

-- The voucher amount would be the lesser of 90 percent of the statewide average annual cost per student for the preceding school year (amount to come) or the private school's average actual annual cost per student. If the child is a special education or bilingual education student, the voucher would be the amount of funding to which the school district would be entitled.

Texas taxpayers cannot afford this huge, expensive, irresponsible private school voucher program that would take money away from public schools in urban areas and statewide! Please write a snail-mail letter to your state representative and state senator in opposition to H.B. 1263, H.B. 12, or any other bill or floor amendment that would use public dollars to pay tuition at private and religious academies.

-- Texas legislators need to solve school finance problems, not create new problems!
-- Texas legislators need to provide more funding for neighborhood public schools, not take money away to give to private schools!
-- Lawmakers who are fiscal conservatives should not create a new "school stamp" entitlement program in urban areas.
-- Schools in rural and suburban areas cannot afford to lose funding to subsidize private academies in big cities.

State legislators must hear from public school supporters NOW!! Please write a letter to your state representative and senator.

Addresses are:
State Representatives and Speaker of the House Tom Craddick: P.O. Box 2910, Austin, Texas 78768-2910
State Senators and Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst: P.O. Box 12068-Capitol Station, Austin, Texas 78711

If you do not know who represents you at the Texas Capitol, go to

Thank you for making it a priority to send a letter to your state leaders! And if you have a chance to see a legislator in your home community or in Austin, be sure to tell him or her that private school vouchers are a bad idea!!

Coalition for Public Schools, 1005 Congress Avenue, Suite 550, Austin, Texas 78701-2491, (512) 474-9765, Fax: (512) 474-2507, Carolyn Boyle, Coordinator

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.

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