Friday, April 05, 2013

A Victory For Public Education In Texas

The gentleman pictured to the left is Texas State Representative Abel Herrero (D-Corpus Christi) -- and those who believe in the importance of public education owe him a great big "thank you". That's because Rep. Herrero just offered an amendment to the state appropriations bill working its way through the legislature -- an amendment that effectively kills using state funds to provide for vouchers to send kids to private schools.

The idea of using state money to provide vouchers to send students to private schools has become one of the big issues in this session of the legislature, and has received the support of both the governor and lt. governor. The measure, introduced by State Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston), tries to sneak in a voucher system through the back door -- by giving businesses a 15% tax break to allow them to provide a "scholarship" for students to attend a private school (including a religious private school).

But Herrero's amendment both forbids the state from providing vouchers directly to students or businesses to use some of the tax money they owe the state to provide a voucher to any student. Any business can still pay for a student to go to a private school -- they just can't do it with state money, or money they owe the state (which would have the same effect as a state-provided voucher). And the amendment was approved by the House by a rather large margin, 103 to 43. That 60 vote margin means the idea of vouchers is probably dead for this session of the state legislature.

The Texas House has 95 Republicans and 55 Democrats, so we owe a debt of gratitude to some Republican representatives also (including my own State Rep. -- Walter Price of Amarillo) for voting to kill the idea of using state money for private school vouchers. At least 48 Republicans had to vote with the Democrats to approve the amendment. And that's more Republicans voting to kill vouchers than to save vouchers. I'm a bit surprised at the vote, but grateful nonetheless.

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