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A matter of priorities

Compare and contrast.

State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, the outspoken voice of the far right in the Senate, said he will be pushing vouchers that parents of school-age children could use for charter schools, online offerings or additional alternatives to the public schools.

“To me, school choice is the photo ID bill of this session,” he said. “Our base has wanted us to pass photo voter ID for years, and we did it. They’ve been wanting us to pass school choice for years. This is the year to do it, in my view. That issue will do more to impact the future of Texas and the quality of education than anything else we could do.”

Patrick envisions a cornucopia of conservative legislation he’s sure will pass, including sanctuary cities restrictions and bills to allow guns on school campuses and outlaw “groping” by Transportation Security Administration personnel.

Conservatives also will push for a law that only allows spending increases if they are based on population and inflation, and Patrick will continue his crusade to change the Senate rule requiring a two-thirds vote to bring up legislation.

Everything they want to do if they have the numbers to do so is an ideological checklist item, which is a continuation of what they did in 2011. Compare that to what the One Texas PAC is talking about – water, electricity, transportation. You know, the things Texas needs to ensure its future. Which issues would you rather see get addressed?

By the way, if Sen. Patrick et al are going to be pushing vouchers – which, let’s be clear, means public money for private (read: “religious”) schools – I wonder if they’ve had a chat with their friends from Louisiana about unintended consequences. I also wonder if, like Louisiana, these private schools will be held to lower accountability standards than the public schools are, if they are held to any standards at all. Perhaps someone should ask Bill Hammond what he thinks about this little scheme. EoW and the Texas AFT Blog have more.

Let’s be clear about something: I disagree with Dan Patrick as much and as often as anyone can, but I truly lament the fact that he has nothing to offer on the real issues that Texas faces. I don’t pretend that my side has all the answers, but right now my side is the only one seeking them. Dan Patrick is a smart guy, and he could be very productive if he cared about something other than perpetuating his own power. I’m sure I wouldn’t like most of whatever solutions he’d have to offer, but I’m also sure there would be something there that could be a starting point for constructive debate. Instead, all we get is time-wasters, distractions, and assaults on those he disdains. I firmly believe it’s behavior like this that will hasten the downfall of his party, but in the meantime Texas’ problems get deeper and more intractable, and that does no one any good.

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19 Comments

  1. Paul Kubosh says:

    My kids go to a private Christian School. We say prayers, have devotion, Bible class, celebrate Christmas, etc. I am not sure what the law is but if we accept public money to pay our tuition then does that mean we can no longer do all of this Christian stuff?

  2. Paul Kubosh says:

    On another note I do like Dan and support and will contribute to his campaign. Sorry Kuff.

  3. Paul Kubosh says:

    Just a little full disclosure.

  4. landslide says:

    How to respond? Fiddling while Rome burns?

    One of my favorite phrases in Spanish is “sin verguenza” which means “without shame,” and it can be used as a noun as well as an adjective, as in “El Senador Patrick es un sin-verguenza.”

  5. Mainstream says:

    The concept of competition in education, choice, vouchers for primary and secondary education has wide appeal within the Republican base, including social moderates who are not usually allies of Sen. Patrick. The general view is that competition would expose inefficiencies in the public school system, and that many who deliver education services, like the Catholic school system, already do so leaner and with greater success than their public counterparts.

  6. Paul – No, there would be no change in what your kids’ school can do. The point of contention – one of them, anyway – is that public money would be used to subsidize the tuition paid to those schools.

    Mainstream – Isn’t that what charter schools are for? There’s a big leap between that and using tax dollars to pay for tuition to private, religious schools.

  7. Mainstream says:

    This is not my area of special interest, but I think the sentiment is that the funding should follow each student to whatever form of education he and his family think best. I also was not aware that charter schools were limited to secular ones; I thought I had heard of Islamic and evangelical schools funded as charters.

  8. BK says:

    How are we going to pay for this? Is Dan Patrick going to raise taxes, because what HISD gets per student & what Kincaid or St. Thomas get are different, in orders of magnitude. Quit raising my taxes, Dan!

  9. Mainstream says:

    BK–I think the concept is to shift funding from HISD to an array of private alternatives. Kincaid and St. Thomas may be pricey outliers, but I believe I have seen studies that the average Roman Catholic school spends less per pupil than the average public school in the same community, and obtains better academic results. Your taxes might go down under a voucher system. I believe studies also show pay for teachers in such schools is substantially below their public school counterparts.

  10. Ross says:

    Once again, the progressives love to keep the poor down in the toilet by arguing against vouchers. You can’t spend enough money on public schools to give a good education in a school where the parents don’t care. Why should someone who lives in such an area be forced to sacrifice their kid’s future because they can’t afford a private school? That’s not as big a deal in HISD where school choice exists, but it is elsewhere.

  11. Ross, did you miss that link about Louisiana private schools – you know, the ones that will be the beneficiary of taxpayer dollars via vouchers – not being subjected to the same accountability standards as the public schools? And that as such they are free to teach things like young-earth creationism? We progressives would like for the students whose educations we are paying for to get educations that will actually help them in life.

    Mainstream, my grandmother taught at a Catholic school for 15 years. I can attest to the fact that the pay sucked. Is that really the best way to pay for Dan Patrick’s tax cuts?

  12. Ross says:

    So, yes, I can put the Progressives down as wanting to keep poor folks in the toilet, because political correctness is far more important than the potential for a good education.

    The parents who want to teach their kids off the wall concepts pay taxes too, lots of them in many cases. They currently get no benefit from those taxes if their kids go to private schools. Will the world as we know it come to an end if another 50,000 kids learn young earth creationism at school instead of at home? Probably not. Will society be better off if 50,000 poor kids go to a school where they can actually learn? Yes.

    There’s no reason accountability can’t be included as part of the deal. Of course, that’s unlikely to occur with Patrick at the helm, since he is an utter idiot. He’s as big a bigot as the idiot in Louisiana that prattled on about Islam.

  13. [...] Off the Kuff notes that while Democrats want to talk about solutions in Texas, Republicans want to talk about things that will benefit themselves. [...]

  14. Steven says:

    Ross, the parents whose children go to private school most certainly receive a benefit from other children getting an education financed in part with their taxes. If you want to go that route, perhaps those of us without children should be exempted from all related taxes as well.

    As others have pointed out in the past, private schools tend to benefit from self selection. The parents spending all that tuition are more likely to push their kids to study, more likely to be actively involved, and more likely to find the money for all sorts of other academic boosters like tutors, books, and such. Private schools are not forced to teach to specific tests, can reject the worst students, and do not end up with the left over population that includes every illegal, every thug, and every under performing child. I do not believe money is the only answer to the equation, if anything it is far down the list, but vouchers will just help widen the gap even more.

  15. Ross says:

    Steve, what would you say to parents in a poor neighborhood whose only hope of a better education for their children is vouchers? “Too bad, your kid is going to suffer because we don’t want one stinking dime of tax money going to private schools”?

  16. [...] point is this. Dan Patrick has made perfectly clear what his priorities are for this legislative session, and “sanctuary cities” is one of the things on his wish [...]

  17. Jak? says:

    “learn young earth creationism at school” is not learning. More like propagating myths and that’s not education.

  18. Steven says:

    Sorry for the late response but frankly, it is my belief that anyone that truly wants a good education can get one at a public school. What is required is making an effort rather than coasting through. There are just too many examples of low income students from poverty stricken areas making good over the years to dissuade me from this belief.

    What private sector schools have going for them is that they set expectations higher. This forces a higher level of compliance on students rather than use their self motivation as the basis for success. Vouchers will not “save” public schools any money, only boost the amount of tax dollars needed to go to private schools by the rest of society. The public ISD’s are not going to dramatically lower their costs if some students leave; the private schools will then likely raise their rates to accomodate more students too (supply and demand as well as the need for larger facilities).

    Student and parent involvement are the keys to success in most cases. Good teachers that aren’t burnt out from bureaucratic battles and testing dilemmas can make a difference too but the desire to learn has to start at home.

  19. [...] the people who vote in the GOP. And just as a reminder, “sanctuary cities” legislation will be a top priority this spring, as it was two years ago. In fact, a bill repealing the Texas DREAM Act that Rick Perry [...]

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