Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Politics or Dirty Politics?

As the end of the 85th legislative session approaches, I find it fascinating (and somewhat discouraging) to watch what is going on in Austin.  Whether it's the recent discussions about ride-hailing companies, continued debate on the bathroom bill or discussions about school finance, there clearly are (as there always are) personal agendas that remain front and center.

From my standpoint, I find the actions by the Senate in adding a special needs voucher program to the House approved HB 21 to be disappointing (although not surprising to me).  This remains an effort by Senate Education Committee chair Sen. Taylor, who has been reasonable and moderate in discussions about public education, to get the "seat at the table" mentioned in a prior blog, i.e., actions taken that appear to be largely in response to pressure from the Lt. Governor for the benefit of the individual.

I would have been surprised if there had not been a push (even from behind the scenes) by the LG to continue to promote one of his key legislative priorities defined prior the session.  He clearly shows a continued focus on his agenda and not the needs of those who elected him.  But that's been a pretty consistent theme for the entire session.  Headlines and agenda, the two things most important to him.

I would be ignorant if I thought for a minute that this "game" is not being played by more than just the LG.  It's a game that seems to be much more prevalent in the Senate than in the House, however, and that is largely due to "leadership" in the Senate.  Rather than working with members to move an agenda forward, he continues to use his position to coerce support of his priorities. 

What is truly sad to me is the failure to acknowledge (or care) about how a voucher (by any name) program for children with special needs actually may reduce many of the rights granted these students.  Raise Your Hand Texas has put together a very nice summary of the potential (and likely unintended) consequences of a voucher program; click here to view their analysis.

Much has been written over the past few days about disappointment and surprise that Chairman Taylor chose to add a voucher program to the house school finance bill.    Disappointment?  Certainly, but I am never surprised by the lengths that some will go to advance their personal agendas. 

Public education advocates have certainly made great progress in parrying some of the challenges introduced in this session.  Our work is not done; now, more than ever, it's up to us to ensure that we push to make education a priority.  Complaining about "dirty" politics will not get us to that goal.

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