The Texas Senate is likely to vote on a private school voucher bill this week. ATPE is urging our members to contact their state senators right away to stop this bad legislation from becoming one step closer to passage.
Senate Bill (SB) 4 by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) calls for diverting state franchise tax dollars away from the state budget, where they are traditionally used to fund public schools, and instead using them to subsidize private and religious schools that are not held accountable to taxpayers and voters. The Senate Education Committee, which Taylor chairs, approved the bill on April 7 by a vote of 7-3 after adding several amendments. Some of the changes made to SB 4 serve to incorporate language from related private school voucher bills that were filed by other senators serving on the committee. As of Monday morning, April 13, the new text of the bill still had not been made available to the public online; nor had a record of the committee’s vote been published. Many legislative insiders believe SB 4 is on the fast track and will be brought up on the Senate floor for a vote very quickly, perhaps before many stakeholders have had an opportunity to thoroughly review the bill in its new format.
Update – 4/13/15, 2:30 pm: SB 4 was just reported favorably as substituted by the Senate Education Committee this afternoon. The new text of the bill, an updated bill analysis, and an updated fiscal note can now be viewed here. Click on the “Text” tab to view the “Senate Committee Report” for the most recent version.
SB 4 would enable wealthy individuals and businesses to take advantage of tax breaks for private education while decreasing the amount of revenue available to be spent on public schools that are still struggling to make up for devastating budget cuts in recent years. SB 4 also opens the door for private entities set up as middleman organizations to take advantage of the privatization plan; if passed, SB 4 could lead to the same type of corruption and scandal that has plagued other states that have already experimented with “tax-credit vouchers” and similar proposals.
While SB 4 would allow some limited money to be used for tutoring students in public schools, there is no requirement that any money go to public schools or their students under this bill, and it’s clear that SB 4’s main purpose is to funnel public dollars to private entities. The private schools that would benefit from state taxpayers’ funding under SB 4 would be largely unregulated and free to choose their own students, standards, and curriculum. The bottom line is that Texas cannot afford to fund two school systems – one public and one private – at a time when we’re trying to clean up our school finance system and ensure that all Texas public school students have access to adequate and equitable funding. ATPE strongly believes that SB 4 is the wrong approach.
You can help us stop this harmful voucher bill from becoming law by contacting your legislators. ATPE encourages you to call or email your state senator TODAY and urge him to VOTE NO on SB 4. Visit our Officeholders page to find out who represents you in the Texas Senate and obtain your senator’s Capitol phone number and official state email address.