Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Voucher Victory Last Night at the Legislature

TO: Coalition for Public Schools Organizations
FROM: Carolyn Boyle

We are excited and claiming "victory" after a five hour debate on private school vouchers in the Texas House of Representatives. Tomorrow I'll send a complete report after I've had a good night's sleep and get the vote reports to tell you exactly how the members voted on 5 different voucher votes.

You may have thought I was exaggerating when I was predicting practically a tie vote, but tonight we had repeated votes with numbers like 72-72, 72-70, and 74-70. The whole scene was described as a "circus," "theatre," and "better than anything on TV." If you did not watch it live, you should go back and watch the debate on the Texas House archives. Just go to this site and click on Chamber 79th Session.

Passionate efforts led by Rep. Carter Casteel and Rep. Scott Hochberg to strip the voucher subchapter from the bill ultimately failed, and all our folks in the gallery were feeling so down. Then Rep. Charlie Geren proposed an amendment to strip out from the voucher program Dallas and Fort Worth ISDs and to substitute Arlington and Irving ISDs (the districts represented by bill authors Rep. Kent Grusendorf and Rep. Linda Harper-Brown). That amendment passed!

Then Rep. Geren proposed an amendment to remove all the words about private schools from the section and to substitute the words "public schools," turning it into a public school choice program. Then that amendment passed! The bill was effectively gutted of vouchers because the "scholarships" could only be used for other public schools.

All during this time a point of order offered by Rep. Jim Dunnam was under consideration by the chair, and after the bill was stripped of vouchers the Speaker sustained the point of order and killed the entire TEA Sunset bill. was a victory but not exactly the victory I envisioned. We were very disappointed with the votes of some legislators and very happy about the votes of others (voting records to be shared tomorrow and talked about for months to come). It was also a disappointment that some legislators who oppose vouchers appeared to have been persuaded to "walk" the vote.

I'm heading home with a renewed sense of hope about the legislative process, continued respect for the wisdom and creativity of public school supporters in the legislature, and respect and love for all the wonderful individuals who are advocates for children through the Coalition for Public Schools!

Thanks for all you have done to achieve this important victory tonight! But now...we need to be watchful for what is happening Tuesday and Wednesday in the Texas Senate and House.

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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