Here is the Testimony that I gave this morning before the Committee on Public Education in the House. I ended up testifying at 12:15AM. It was a long night to say the least. Word is that it'll come out of committee and that the vote in the House is going to be close. What the reader should understand is that legislators said that the public shouldn't see this as an attack on public education since it would only affect .5% of all public school students, depending on their eligibility. That's beside the point, as I indicate below. -Angela
Angela Valenzuela, Texas LULAC
April 6, 2005
Thank you for this opportunity to speak. I'm here representing the Texas League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the largest and oldest Latino civil rights organization in this state, as well as nationally. Texas LULAC opposes vouchers. I am a scholar, researcher, and parent of two public school children.
Notwithstanding some statements heard today that the proposed voucher bills are not an attack on public schools, anyone who has kept up with the voucher movement knows that nothing could be farther from the truth. And all Texans need and deserve to know this. If we look at the work of scholars such as Shaker and Heilman, Joel Spring, Michael Apple, a recent report by Johnson & Salle from the Commonweal Institute and others such as myself, it is clear that there has been a relentless, very well funded and organized campaign on the right to demonize public schools, teachers, and teachers unions.
In my studied opinion of the public accountability system-and this appears in my book titled, Leaving Children Behind: How 'Texas-style' Accountability Fails Latino Youth-I maintain that one of the purposes of high-stakes testing is to discredit the public school system in order to pave the way to vouchers and privatization, generally. There are clearly many agendas in public education, but I maintain that this is the leading one. In this view, the ultimate form of accountability is the market. In this new “commonsense,” we are to behave as individual consumers before a marketplace of options. In light of this agenda, it is clear why no comparable accountability testing requirements are attached to any of the voucher house bills. The ultimate form of accountability is the market. (They may test their students, but they're not used in the same punishing way as they are used in the public school system.)
Vouchers have been promoted today as providing “choice,” “as serving economically disadvantaged children” or “as rescuing children from failing public schools” but HB 3042, in particular, unmasks the agenda of which I spoke-that is, the complete privatization of our schools.
Accordingly, in a 1995 Cato Institute Briefing, Milton Friedman who testified here last legislation session for vouchers expresses the following:
“The voucher must be universal, available to all parents, and large enough to cover the costs of a high-quality education. No conditions should be attached to vouchers that interfere with the freedom of private enterprises to experiment, to explore, and to innovate. The problem is how to get from here to there. Vouchers are not an end in themselves; they are a means to make a transition from a government to a market system.”
Even if one grants that a privatized schooling system will foster a spirit of competition, this would be nullified the damaging effects of a culture of consumerism and separation that such a system would create. It would also exacerbate the differences between the rich and the poor. In this imagined and desired space (by some) of a totally privatized system, the crucial counterweight to state and corporate power would be gone.
This violates such core democratic notions of the public sphere and the common good. Education is about shared governance in order to grow healthy children, communities, and citizens for a democracy. I underscore the notion of “shared governance.” Without a public school system, lost is that precious space between the private realm of the family and the public realm of the market within which private interests can be pursued and where the market can be critiqued.
If there is a problem with decaying infrastructure, limited resources, uncaring bureaucracies-and indeed there is-then this is indeed a threat to democracy within the public school system. The answer to this problem, however, is a reinvigorated public space and not the dismantling of democratic institutions.