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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

TESTIFY AGAINST VOUCHERS APRIL 5 IN AUSTIN

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
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TAKE ACTION – TESTIFY AGAINST VOUCHERS APRIL 5 IN AUSTIN
*** CHECK OUT OUR NEW WEB SITE, WWW.TFN.ORG, FOR MORE INFO **

VOUCHERS – Public hearing on vouchers set for April 5
Three voucher bills are headed for public hearing on April 5 in the House Public Education Committee. This will be the one-and-only chance the public can speak out against private school vouchers. We expect a large turnout from the pro-voucher camp – two years ago bus loads of parents currently receiving a voucher from James Leininger packed the hearing room.

We need our side of the story told. Please make plans to come testify. It’s important that the committee hear from parents, teachers, school board members, business owners, etc. That means you! Please contact Heather Alden, heather@tfn.org, if you can testify and to get more details!

Following are the proposed House bills on vouchers:

· H.B. 12 by Rep. Corte, R-San Antonio, is a pilot voucher program that would drain money from neighborhood public schools to pay for tuition at private and religious schools in urban areas. Not only would the bill take hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars from our neighborhood schools, private schools receiving the money wouldn’t even have to be accredited by a recognized organization.

· H.B. 1263 by Rep. Harper-Brown, R- Irving; Jodi Laubenberg, R-Parker; and Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, creates a pilot voucher program for educationally disadvantaged students in counties with a population of more than 800,000 people. Those counties include Harris (Houston), Dallas, Tarrant (Fort Worth), Bexar (San Antonio) and Travis (Austin).

· H.B. 3042 by Rep. Riddle, R-Tomball, opens up private school vouchers to any student in the state who is eligible for public school. This is the most far-reaching of the three voucher bills.

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

Today the Senate Education Committee began hearing testimony on H.B. 2, the omnibus school finance and education reform bill by Rep. Gruesendorf, R-Arlington. The chairman of the committee, Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said that there will be a much different version of H.B. 2 coming out of the Senate. Besides the pitiful lack of funding, the House bill also includes provisions to privatize and erode state education standards. One provision in H.B. 2, for example, would allow exemplary schools to ignore quality education standards like small class sizes, teacher certification and early reading intervention that have helped students make progress over the past two decades. Another provision in the bill would allow private companies (such as Edison Schools) to run low-performing public schools. Studies have shown, however, that many public schools run by private education companies have a poor record of improving academic performance.

VIRTUAL CHARTER SCHOOLS

· H.B. 1445 by Rep. Madden, R-Plano, creates a “virtual school network” to allow local school districts and charter schools to develop online courses to be taken by any school-age child in Texas, including home-school kids. H.B. 1445 would create a de facto virtual voucher program because it would allow school districts and charter schools to contract with private companies to develop and administer these online courses at state expense. A substitute bill to H.B. 1445 is expected this week.

SBOE/TEXTBOOKS

· NEW! H.B. 2534 by Rep. Chisum allows the State Board of Education (SBOE) to determine content requirements and limitations for facts and theories (theory of evolution), citizenship, patriotism and free enterprise (history and social studies), divergent individuals and groups (“may not encourage lifestyles that deviate from generally accepted standards of society”). This bill would set into law the kind of textbook censorship TFN has fought at the SBOE for the last 10 years. The bill has been referred to committee, but a hearing has yet to be scheduled.

· H.B. 220 by Rep. Howard, R-Sugar Land, would give the SBOE the authority to reject a textbook or require its revision simply because it did not conform to the political or religious beliefs of SBOE members. This same bill was filed in the Senate last week as S.B. 378. H.B. 220 and S.B. 378 have both been referred to committee, but hearings have yet to be scheduled.

· H.B. 973 by Rep. Madden, R-Plano, would give the SBOE broad authority to change the state’s social studies curriculum by allowing the SBOE to decide whether or not textbooks “focus in an unreasonably negative manner on American values, culture, or history.” This bill has been referred to House Public Education Committee, but a hearing has yet to be scheduled.

· H.B. 2576 by Rep. Grusendorf is the Texas Education Agency Sunset bill. This bill opens up a door to vouchers, virtual charter schools and lessening of school standards. The bill has been referred to committee, but a hearing has yet to be scheduled.

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Make a donation to support our work to stop private school vouchers and textbook censorship. Donate online: https://www.tfn.org/member/general/ .

Please contact me with any questions or comments.

Best Regards,

Heather Alden
Outreach Director
Texas Freedom Network
512.322.0545 telephone
512.322.0550 facsimile
heather@tfn.org

The Texas Freedom Network advances a mainstream agenda of religious freedom and individual liberties to counter the radical right.

2 comments:

  1. Professor Valenzuela:

    Thanks for the information on the vouchers. You mentioned last night Hispanic Creo. Coincidentally I went to a parent meeting last night and one of their representatives was there and took the floor to speak to the parents. It was amazing to see how they tailor their arguments to make them appealing to our community. Couple points were of interest:
    - They have been put on the defensive somehow and begin their talk by saying that they are not for privatizing public schools. Not true.
    - They tell parents that they should have the "choice" to send their kids wherever they think is right and not have anything imposed on them. They do acknowledge that since it is not practical to take all students out of the public school system, they are really aiming to help about 20% of students.
    - They are doing serious work in the community. I have had parents relate that they pick them up and drive them to private schools to "show" them what they deserve. They are seriously planning for the hearing next week and will be picking up parents on 4/5/05 at 11:00 a.m. on the HEB on 41st and the one on Oltorf.
    I think that after the hearing it might be appropiate for us to discuss their strategy and why is so appealing to minority parents. I think that we will find ourselves going back to the fact that our public schools are so segregated that they are perceived as offering limited opportunity to a population who has great potential.

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  2. As a short addendum to what Alejandra said-
    Voucher programs allow for 5% of the children in the district to apply for the programs. This raises quite a few problems:
    --What do we propose for the other 95%?
    --What will the ethnic composition of that 5% who does receive the vouchers look like?


    I was also wondering if there has been a movement within the community to go to the hearing against vouchers. I read the Coalition for Public schools notice, and to me at least, it seems to be a movement from the outside. Are there any plans to counter the Hispanic CREO's plans to pick up concerned parents? How can that be accomplished?

    ReplyDelete