The Great Voucher Scam

dfwnewsa | February 21, 2024 | 0 | 817 , city , Education , features , Fort Worth , Fort Worth News , Gov Greg Abbott , local , Metro , people , private schools , public schools , Tarrant County , Texas , voucher

The Great Voucher Scam

With more than 500 amendments, Texas’ constitution is at times vague to the point of incomprehensibility, but in its commitment to public education, it is unambiguously clear.

Article 7, Section 1 lays it out plainly: “A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free education.”

“Make suitable provision” means to support public education, not defund it, but defund it is exactly what Gov. Greg Abbott’s voucher scheme will do.

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Vouchers will effectively kill Texas public education, but don’t take my word for it. Conservative Republican Rep. Glenn Rogers recently wrote, “Under the guise of promoting choice, proposed school voucher programs are a ‘trojan horse’ attempt to privatize Texas’ education system and drain our already underfunded public education of necessary resources for millions of children.”

And after Arizona’s experience with vouchers, Gov. Katie Hobbs said, “The universal school voucher program is unsustainable. Unaccountable school vouchers do not save taxpayer money, and they do not provide a better education.”

Abbott’s voucher scheme promises parents about $8,000 for tuition at the private school of their choice. With the average private school tuition near $12,000, some several times more, this will not benefit middle- or lower-income students. It’s not even going to set up meaningful competition between public and private schools. Studies have found that the vast majority of students who benefit from vouchers in other states never even attended public schools. It’s simply a Robin Hood-in-reverse plan to rob from the poor and middle class to help the affluent. This illustrates, yet again, that Republicans may talk faux populism but always govern as plutocrats, showering their rich donors with our tax dollars while giving the finger to the rest of us.

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Vouchers are also a big wet kiss to the religious right. Former U.S. education secretary Betsy Devos strongly backs Abbott’s effort to privatize education. She sells vouchers as a way to, in her words, “advance God’s kingdom.” Chris Tackett, who documents the sources of Republicans’ campaign loot on Substack, recently wrote that Texas is “for sale to the highest billionaire bidder. And those bids are coming in from those who want to impose their religious beliefs upon all.”

One thing for certain if the voucher scheme becomes law, Republicans will not fund public education fully because, once the cost of vouchers rises, property taxes would have to be raised, and we all know that issue’s a nonstarter for conservatives. Vouchers benefiting the wealthy who already can afford private schools will siphon more money from our already-underfunded public schools.

In the most recent rankings by the U.S. News and World Report, Texas is 43rd in per-pupil spending. That will only go down if Abbott’s plan is adopted. Poor and middle-class students, who make up the vast majority of young people in our state, will bear the brunt of this misguided policy, putting our future Texas workforce in danger of not obtaining a sufficient education. And it will also hurt hard-working teachers, administrators, and staff, the kind of people I worked with for decades.

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I spent 40 years of my life in public schools — first as a student, then a substitute, then a teacher, and, after retirement, as a tutor. For more than a quarter of a century, I used my stentorian teacher voice, sang off-key, and even stood on desks to get my students’ attention to do one thing — learn. No matter what anyone tells you, most teachers are doing their best to do just that, going through good and way too many bad days in the process. Not much can stand in a teacher’s way, but this voucher scheme, if it ever passes, just might. If it becomes law, you’ll see an even greater exodus of teachers from the profession.

With conservatives’ moral panic over COVID lockdowns, trans athletes, CRT — or, the new bogeyman, DEI — and books with words in them, Abbott has been picking on Texas public educators for years. And from the millions of dollars in fundraising he’s doing from out-of-state interests and shady “educational” entrepreneurs to unseat the brave rural Republican legislators who defied him by not approving vouchers, he still desires more than anything else to implement his deceptively worded “education savings accounts” bill.

So forget the Hulk or any other superhero in the Marvel or DC universes. The most popular action figures should be the rural Republican lawmakers who saved, for now, Texas public schools by standing up to our state’s corrupt leadership. The Texas constitution is clear. Let’s follow it.

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Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue, a retired high school teacher, regularly writes about education issues.

 

This column reflects the opinions and fact-gathering of the author(s) and only the author(s) and not the Fort Worth Weekly. To submit a column, please email Editor Anthony Mariani at Anthony@FWWeekly.com. He will gently edit it for clarity and concision.

The post The Great Voucher Scam appeared first on Fort Worth Weekly.

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