TEXAS AFT LEGISLATIVE HOTLINE
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2013
Educational Privateers, Led by Jeb Bush, Make Pitch for Vouchers, Phony “Reforms”: Let Lawmakers Know You Oppose This Attack on Public Education
A one-sided Texas Senate hearing today featured former Florida governor Jeb Bush and a supporting cast of self-styled education “reformers” all bent on promoting private-school vouchers, the wholesale handover of neighborhood schools to private charter-school operators, and takeaways of educators’ due-process contract rights. The group showed up at the behest of Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), the chair of the Senate Education Committee, who brought them in to bolster his agenda of vouchers, charter expansion, and nullification of state educational-quality safeguards. One Patrick agenda item, expected to be introduced soon as a Senate bill, will apparently mimic a Florida voucher scheme, using a tax credit to divert funds from the state treasury so that businesses can steer the money instead to private schools.
Patrick was eager to showcase the Bush “Florida formula,” which includes all the elements Patrick is pushing in Texas, but Bush ran into some difficulty when he took questions from several senators. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) noted that despite Bush’s claims of success for his formula, in place since 1999, Florida’s dropout rate remains one of the worst in the country, ranking the state 44th in on-time graduation from high school. While Bush touted Florida’s success in early grades in reading, Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) asked questions that pointed to the impact of Florida’s investments in class-size reduction and universal access to pre-kindergarten—policies omitted from Bush’s narrative, perhaps because they were imposed by Florida voters over his adamant opposition.
One of Bush’s back-up witnesses, the head of the Louisiana “Recovery District” that has handed over most New Orleans schools to charter operators, had to own up under questioning from Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) to the poor accountability rating earned by his district’s schools. In fact, the Recovery District in 2012 state accountability ratings ranked dead last among all Louisiana school districts, 70th out of 70, earning the district an “F” rating. The Recovery District leader said that the rankings obscured gains in many of his schools, but the fact remains that these schools are still earning “F” grades from the state after years of deregulated private operation —which was justified in the first place because of low school ratings.
While Sen. Patrick has the power as committee chair to select his witnesses as he pleases, you have the power to speak out to your legislators in both House and Senate against the attack on public education. Use that power now! You can send a letter in opposition to vouchers--and other phony “reforms” that don’t help kids--from the Texas AFT Web site. Future Hotline messages will inform you of other opportunities to speak out as well. So stay tuned.