Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Oppose Vouchers: Call Your Representative

TO: Coalition for Public Schools Organizations
FROM: Carolyn Boyle

H.B. 1263, a risky, expensive private school voucher bill, could come up for a vote on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives on Wednesday or
Thursday, May 11-12. Neighborhood public schools in eight school districts
could lose more than $600 million in the first two years under H.B. 1263. In
2010, every school district in Texas could join the voucher program if
approved by a majority of its school board.

If this legislation passes, our Texas public education system based on
neighborhood public schools will be forever changed. The new privatized
school system envisioned by voucher supporters is one with tax-supported
chains of for-profit private schools, tax-supported religious academies,
charter schools converted unto unregulated yet publicly-funded private
schools, as well as limited regulation and academic accountability for
private schools that receive public money.

representative's office in Austin, where you will talk with an assistant who keeps a tally of phone calls. Even if you've called before, call again and mention the specific bill number the lawmaker should oppose. If you don't know your representative's name and phone number, go to this capitol website where you may enter your home address and find the listing for "Texas State Representative." Tell your representative:

-- VOTE NO on H.B. 1263 or any floor amendment to another bill that would
use public money to fund private school tuition vouchers
-- Legislators need to solve school finance problems NOW--not create new
problems with vouchers.
-- (If you are a taxpayer in one of the 8 school districts immediately
affected by the voucher pilot project) My neighborhood schools can't afford
to lose millions of dollars to fund private school tuition vouchers.
-- (If you are a taxpayer in one of the other 1028 school districts) Rural
and suburban taxpayers can't afford to spend tax money to subsidize private
schools in urban areas. Express concerns that your children and schools will
be harmed if vouchers are approved in 2010 by a future school board.

H.B. 1263 has not yet been set on the House Calendar, but all indications
are that it will come to the floor for a vote this week. The bill passed
out of the House Committee on Public Education May 5, and it is now in the
Calendars Committee which will determine when it is scheduled for a floor
vote. May 12 is the final day for floor action on House bills on second
reading on the daily or supplemental calendar, according to that body's

Here are the most important provisions about the bill, and additional
financial details are attached:

Participating school districts 2010-2011 school year and onward: Effective
August 1, 2010, every school district in Texas would be eligible to
participate in the Texas voucher program based solely on action by its
school board. Special interests seeking public funding for private/religious
schools and for-profit school chains would start planning immediately to
take over school boards so majorities would be in place by 2010 to vote for

Participating school districts in 2005-2010 and how much public money they
could lose due to vouchers in the first TWO years:

Austin ISD could lose: $74 million
Dallas ISD could lose: $165 million
Edgewood ISD (San Antonio) could lose: $13 million
Fort Worth ISD could lose: $79 million
Houston ISD could lose: $200 million
North Forest ISD (Houston) could lose: $9 million
San Antonio ISD could lose: $54 million
South San Antonio ISD could lose: $9 million
The amount of money these districts could lose after August 1, 2008 is
inestimable, because as of that date there are no limits on how many
students could receive a private school tuition voucher.

All suburban school districts in metropolitan areas would be impacted: Since
initially there will be some limits on private school capacity, the bill
provides that all students eligible for vouchers in the eight urban
districts may also transfer to any suburban school district under guidelines
for the Public Education Grant program.

Eligibility to receive a voucher: A student who does not pass any section
of the TAKS test in grades 3-12 or is eligible for the free/reduced price
lunch program, of limited English proficiency, eligible for special
education, does not pass a readiness test in PreK-3rd grades, fails two
subjects during a semester, is pregnant or a parent, placed in an
alternative education program, has been expelled, is on parole or probation,
is homeless. Students from upper-income families could receive a voucher
solely by not passing a section of the TAKS test. Eligible students must
have attended a public or charter school for a majority of the preceding
semester or be starting school for the first time. [Note: If current private
school students enroll in public school for one semester to qualify for a
voucher and then return to private school, it will cause myriad staffing,
facilities, and funding problems for school districts.]

To read H.B. 1263, click on the following H.B. 1263 link.

It only takes 30 seconds to call your state representative's office, and
your call can make a difference! Thank you for speaking up for Texas
children and supporting your neighborhood public schools.

Coalition for Public Schools, 1005 Congress Avenue, Suite 550, Austin, Texas
78701-2491, (512) 474-9765, Cell: (512) 470-1215; Fax: (512) 474-2507,
Carolyn Boyle, Coordinator

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