Thursday, February 03, 2005

Rep. Debbie Riddle Proposes Vouchers for All

TO: Coalition for Public Schools Organizations
FROM: Carolyn Boyle

Rep. Debbie Riddle Proposes Vouchers for All

Most children in Texas, including home-schooled children, would be eligible to receive a $5,500 publicly-funded school voucher under a proposal being circulated by Rep. Debbie Riddle (R-Houston). The proposal is attached. This could cost up to $2 billion in the first year just for students currently in private schools and home-schools. Some highlights of the proposal include:

-- All Texas children could receive a voucher for elementary and secondary education if they are legal residents of the state and are eligible to attend public school. (from pre-kindergarten for eligible students through age 21)
-- Private schools can reject students who are not "academically eligible" and can exclude student applicants who do not share their religious beliefs. Private schools could not discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, or ethnicity.
-- The voucher would initially be in the amount of $5,500 and would be adjusted yearly using the average of the Consumer Price Index.
-- Parents have to make sure their child takes some kind of norm-referenced test and the results are sent to the commissioner. (But there are no consequences for poor academic achievement by children or high failure rates by all children at a private school or home school.)
-- The commissioner may adopt rules to implement the program but none of those rules can regulate private schools.

Chairman Grusendorf to Hold Press Conference on HB 2
House Public Education Committee Chairman Kent Grusendorf will hold a press conference today (February 3) at 11 a.m. in the Speaker’s Committee Room, 2W.6, to announce House Bill 2, the "school reform" bill. The press conference will be video streamed on the Internet via the House of Representatives television system channel. Please check the House of Representatives Broadcast Schedule at this link and then click on the appropriate link to the video coverage of the press conference.

In a Houston Chronicle story today, House Speaker Tom Craddick said "that the 'very controversial' issue of state-funded private school vouchers will not be in HB 2 but is expected to be debated as an amendment when the bill reaches the House in March."

So what to do? If you have not yet written your state representative or state senator a letter in opposition to vouchers, do so today! Urge him or her to vote against any floor amendment that would use public money to fund private schooling and home-schooling via a pilot program or vouchers for every child. Taxpayers cannot afford vouchers! Every minute legislators spend talking about private school vouchers is a minute they are not talking about strengthening our neighborhood public schools.

If you do not know who represents you in the Texas Legislature, go to

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

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