Dan Patrick Tries An End-Run On His Plan To Give Texas Students Taxpayer-Funded Scholarships To Private & Parochial Schools
Patrick, with few members of the Senate Education Committee but plenty of audience, laid out Senate Bill 23 yesterday The bill, co-sponsored with Sen. Donna Campbell, R-San Antonio, would provide taxpayer-funded private- and parochial-school scholarships for low-income children in failing schools.
Patrick, in his substitute, has limited the pot of money for these scholarships to $100 million, which would be culled from donations from participating businesses. Those businesses would earn a tax credit for the franchise tax they deposit in the fund. A total of three non-profit entities would be authorized to distribute the scholarships.
Patrick frames the scholarships as a moral imperative. Wealthy kids have options, he said. "But if you're a working mom in the inner city or a grandmother or a guardian, you don't have that choice," Patrick said. "I don't know why in Texas we would say to the poor, to say to that mom, you don't have the same rights as someone who has more zeroes in their bank account."
Patrick's only opponent at the hearing was Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, who has continued to faithfully attend Senate Education Committee meetings despite not being named to the committee.
Davis sparred with Patrick over whether the scholarships would take money away from public education. (Patrick was a no, Davis a yes.) And whether private schools would be willing to have the transparency of public schools. (Patrick and private school supporters said absolutely. Davis was skeptical.)
Patrick's refrain, one echoed by private schools, is that failing to approve the taxpayer-funded scholarships would leave more than 315,000 students trapped in more than 500 failing schools. Most of those students are poor and minority.
Texas may have many failing schools, but the fact it has 500 might be because the state did not pursue Race to the Top federal funding and has not secured a conditional waiver from the U.S. Department of Education. Speculation is that a waiver remains unlikely, given recent changes to the accountability system, leaving Texas on a trajectory to have the most failing schools in the country, regardless of the number of tests.