Joseph Bast, president and CEO of the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, is a witness for Texans for Real Efficiency and Equity in Education, or TREE, a group led by former state Rep. Kent Grusendorf that is not a plaintiff but was permitted by state District Judge John Dietz to present testimony.
Bast said a taxpayer savings grant program similar to education vouchers would benefit low-income families who could put grant money toward paying for private school tuition.
“If you’re low-income, you’re pretty much trapped in the public school that’s in your direct area,” he said.
Bast estimated that such a grant program would spur about 6 percent of students in Texas public schools to move to private schools, a number he arrived at by evaluating similar programs, including the now-defunct CEO Horizon voucher program in San Antonio’s Edgewood Independent School District.
He said the state saves $7,750 each time a child leaves the public system and, therefore, “the program actually benefits the public schools.” He estimated the annual savings would be about $2 billion.
The state’s previous failure to act on such a proposal “is evidence of the inefficiency of public schools,” Bast said.
Questioned by Maribel Hernández Rivera, an attorney for one of the plaintiff groups represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Bast acknowledged that he has not graduated from college and holds no degrees in economics, though he considers himself an economist.
He also said neither of two reports he co-authored, which were entered into evidence, had been peer-reviewed.
David Thompson, attorney for another group of school districts, later pointed out that the Legislative Budget Board concluded that the taxpayer savings grant proposal would cost the state money in its first two years of operation. Bast acknowledged that he and the budget board arrived at different conclusions on this point.
“To your knowledge, no government entity in the state of Texas has ever agreed with your analysis of savings, is that correct?” Thompson asked.
“Apparently,” Bast replied.
I figure civil litigators live for these sort of “Perry Mason” moments. I really don’t think I can add anything else to that.