Dan Patrick Tries An End-Run On His Plan To Give Texas Students Taxpayer-Funded Scholarships To Private & Parochial Schools

danpatrick041913.jpg
Dan Patrick has a plan.
Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, is determined to get his taxpayer-funded scholarship bill through the Senate, and he's even willing to scale it back to do so.

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.


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10 comments
Roger Harmon
Roger Harmon

Yes Senator Danny! Turn down federal funds baby. Burp. Now this thing is like my olives in my martini: can't do without them. Here's an except from reporter Kimberly Reeves says succinctly: 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. Thanks! So we exchange a few high brow senior students for a boat load of dummy public school tots. Real noble of you sir!

jeffbalke
jeffbalke topcommenter

I went to a parochial school and I have friends whose kids go or went to them. While I wouldn't necessarily recommend them and I'm certainly not a fan of any kind of vouchers, my issue with bills like this one is more practical rather than philosophical. They say they would give scholarships, but for what, tuition? You think giving a family enough money to pay for the school tuition, maybe even the books is going to cover it? What about uniforms -- most of them have that. What about lunch? Oh, and what about transportation? Very few of these kids will live close enough to walk or bike, which means someone has to drive them and pick them up.

My parents were both teachers for YEARS in HISD and the one common theme is that impoverished parents barely have the resources to get their kids to and from public school, ensure they have the right clothes and the like. How and the hell could they possibly afford all the expenses that come with a private one?

The truth is, this isn't about poor kids. This is about middle income Christians who can't quite afford the tuition of a parochial school. As usual, if they told the actual truth, no one would vote for it, so they have to try and trick everyone into believing it's some noble cause.

Thenonymous
Thenonymous

"Wealthy kids have options, but right now, a poor kid going to public school doesn't have the OPPORTUNITY to have creationism and climate change denial shoved down their throats!"

Anse
Anse

I'm sure the Senator and his rightwing cohorts will have no problem with any of this money going to one of the several private Islamic schools in the Houston area. 

Levelheaded
Levelheaded

"The truth is, this isn't about poor kids. This is about middle income Christians who can't quite afford the tuition of a parochial school. As usual, if they told the actual truth, no one would vote for it, so they have to try and trick everyone into believing it's some noble cause."

So, so true. I live by plenty of these middle class "Christians" who just can't seem to afford to send their kids to the local private schools. So, all they do is bitch endlessly about the public schools.

eudemonist
eudemonist

@jeffbalke Pell Grants only help the poor, not the "poor-poor".  We should totally eliminate them.

jeffbalke
jeffbalke topcommenter

@eudemonist @jeffbalke I'm not saying don't do it. If you can gain support for it, that's anyone's right. I'm saying tell the whole truth about what it is for. Don't pretend that it is for some horribly impoverished kids who just need a leg up to get out of the ghetto. Trying to say it is for minorities -- another approach he has used -- is particularly gross.

Anse
Anse

@eudemonist @jeffbalke My point was tongue-in-cheek but nevertheless legit, since the chief supporters of a voucher system are largely fundamentalist Christians with a kneejerk disgust for all things Muslim. But Balke brings up a good point. These vouchers could not possibly cover the cost of the best and most expensive private schools. How many of these kids are gonna get into Kincaid, do you think? The British School? And how many of those schools are eager to jump on board with a program that is billed as a way to help families in need? This program does nothing to actually improve schools and will only further deteriorate the educational opportunities for those same schoolchildren. The problem, really, is this: Republicans say they want to give people choices. But then you have to ask if an educational system that is really worth a damn should allow flat-out false curriculum to be taught, or, whether the government should be in the business of perpetuating ignorance. I say if you choose ignorance for your children you should foot the bill yourself. (And no, I do not suggest that all parochial schools are ignorant, but if Louisiana is an indication, there are some that truly are astonishingly ignorant.)

eudemonist
eudemonist

@jeffbalke @eudemonist Fair enough.  Anse seems to think it will benefit Islamic kids in our area, though;  is he mistaken?  Or is your position that any assistance given to minorities will simply be accidental?

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