I read with interest the pronouncement by Senate Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty that the prospect of a voucher bill reaching the floor of the House this session is unlikely. While good news for public education, this is a battle that is far from being won over the long term.
Of course, Senate Bill 3, the voucher (by any name) bill, will continue to get press as the Lt. Governor continues his efforts to pass this legislation, a battle he has now waged unsuccessfully for almost 10 years. It would be easy to suggest that failure of a voucher bill to pass both chambers is a sign that there will not be yet another push for vouchers; nothing could be further from the truth. While prospects are dimming, I think we count on the Lt. Governor using this as a chit in the discussions about adequately funding public education.
The successful (it appears) effort to challenge the introduction of voucher legislation should serve as motivation for a cross section of public education advocates and those opposed to the accountability that vouchers would bring to homeschoolers and private schools to continue to emphasize the importance of defeating voucher legislation. This bill and others have never really been about the needs of students; they have always been more about the special interest groups who stand to benefit financially from a dismantling of public education.
Our work is not done. Senate Bill 3 will certainly get out of committee but the prospects of it passing the full Senate seem to be diminishing with each day. Some of the Senators on whom the Lt. Governor had counted are wavering because of the limited impact that a voucher program would have in a district that, in some cases, is largely rural. In addition, there seems to be a stronger push for accountability beyond that proposed by the Lt. Governor and Chairman Taylor, both of whom have stated that accountability for non-public schools should fall to the parent, not the State.
More than ever, now is the time to continue efforts to convince Senators that vouchers (by any name) are a bad idea. I anticipate that Chairman Huberty’s comments will provide fodder for the Lt. Governor and Governor to again criticize House leadership for not allowing voucher legislation to come to a vote in the House. Faced with that and the ongoing prospect for comments and criticism such as that offered up by Sen. Huffines in an exchange with Richardson ISD students earlier this week, public education advocates must remain committed to serving the needs of students and continuing to make education a priority.