This is the fifth post in our A Dozen Days, A Dozen Ways to Vote Your Profession series.
At issue: For years now, well-funded political action committees, think tanks and individuals in the business community have been trying to outsource public education to the private sector at taxpayers’ expense. Privatization is popular among school reform enthusiasts because there are billions of dollars at stake. They argue that “school choice” will improve public education through the competitive force of the free market, but time and again research and experience have shown that privatization is bad for students, bad for teachers and bad for taxpayers.
The new threat: Originally conceived as form of payment that the government would give to families to use toward tuition at a private school or to offset the cost of home-schooling, the concept of vouchers has mutated into more complex schemes often called “tax credits,” “opportunity grants” or “scholarships.” Voucher proponents use attractive marketing ideas such as “parent triggers” and “escapes from failing schools” to target families of students with the greatest needs, including the poor, those with disabilities and those attending schools that are struggling to meet accountability targets. The idea of contracting with private entities to manage schools or even entire school districts has also gained traction throughout the country. In Texas, we already have private management boards being appointed to run school districts that fail under the accountability system, and we barely defeated bills in 2013 that would have created an “Achievement School District” for low-performing schools (i.e. a statewide school district that would be operated by private entities).
We cannot afford to let private businesses take over our public schools and profit off the taxes we pay to fund them: Voucher proponents continue to look for clever loopholes in the law and complicated financial strategies to mask the fact that taxpayer dollars would be funneled into the coffers of private entities. Whether a private entity hired to run a school is a for-profit business or a nonprofit organization (that is likely affiliated with a for-profit business), there is no effective way to make sure they comply with state laws, and private companies don’t have to answer to voters the way an elected school board does.
Your vote will help decide whether public education wins or loses next session: If you think your one vote doesn’t matter, consider that past voucher bills have been stopped in the Legislature by a single vote, and past elections have been decided by single-digit margins. Your vote not only matters, it is essential. Before you vote in the March 4 primary election, make a quick visit to our 2014 Races search page to find your legislative candidates’ profiles. Open the Survey Response section and view your candidates’ answers to this question: “Would you vote to spend public tax dollars on a voucher, tax credit or scholarship that allows students to attend non-public schools in grades K–12?” We must elect candidates who will commit to fight privatization of our schools in any form, and we need your help. You can still vote early this week, or vote at your assigned polling place on March 4.
Related Teach the Vote content: Learn why big corporations are so invested in the privatization of public schools.