Home > Uncategorized > Texas Education Leader Succinctly Argues Against Vouchers… But Misses the Reason They Appeal to Voters

Texas Education Leader Succinctly Argues Against Vouchers… But Misses the Reason They Appeal to Voters

December 21, 2016

Several states have gone all in for vouchers (LA, IN, WI come to mind), and under Governor Dan Patrick’s administration TX is likely to be named to that list. Gary Godsey, the executive director for the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE), the state’s largest educator group and the voice of public education, is not buying the idea and he contends that parents and voters across the state are not buying it either:

Abandoning our neighborhood public schools, however, isn’t something the majority of Texans want. While political salesmen like Patrick and Trump and the organizations that support them like to wax poetically about supporting “school choice” programs, such as taxpayer savings grants and education savings accounts (ESAs), these programs are nothing more than vouchers. Unlike real choice programs that help families find the best fit for their children, the true purpose of every voucher program is to decrease the state’s responsibility to properly fund a quality education for every child while directing education dollars that are spent to political supporters.

Mr. Godsey is on the mark when he argues that the majority of Texans do not want to abandon neighborhood public schools. But what he misses is that virtually every voucher program that purports to provide a range of “choices” for students implicitly retains the existing district boundary lines and thereby sidesteps the need to address the economic segregation and racial re-segregation that is occurring in our nation’s schools. And adept voucher marketers know how to present their concepts in a fashion that makes it clear that the boundary lines will be inviolate thereby assuring affluent parents that they do not have to worry about the possibility of their district having to open its doors to children who are raised in poverty or children of different races or cultures. Arguing against vouchers while arguing for “neighborhood schools” can play into the hands of those who market falsely vouchers as a means of mobility and access to quality schools.

Mr. Godsey DOES advance arguments against vouchers that both support equity and undercut the voucher marketeers and hose who think schools should run like a business:

Our society’s commitment to public education, as enshrined in the Texas Constitution, places a responsibility on our legislature to ensure we have a public education system capable of properly educating every child who comes to the schoolhouse door. Voucher schools, on the other hand, can pick and choose who they take and are inherently exclusionary. As a result, the population of students who might benefit from a voucher is substantially limited and the schools available to all students are significantly harmed. Under this proposed system, students with special needs, such as learning or physical disabilities, language barriers, or behavioral challenges, would mostly likely be left behind. 

Schools aren’t businesses, and they shouldn’t be run like them. Businesses can choose what type of product they want to sell and how to sell it, and if the product is not up to their standard, it gets sent back or destroyed. Our schools’ products are children, and we can’t send them back – we must build them up. We cater to their education needs, whether our students be homeless, rich, poor, abused, frightened, rude, or brilliant! 

Godsey concludes by arguing that the best thing the Texas Legislature could do to improve education is provide it with the funds it needs, specifically referencing the $5,400,000,000 in cuts in 2011:

Our energy and resources would be better spent on the public education system than on a limited voucher experiment. Restoring all the funding cut from public schools in 2011 would help us battle overcrowded classrooms, provide the latest and greatest technology to students, and offer better pay and support for great teachers so that they stay in the classroom longer and do the most good.

But TX legislators have the voting public right where they want them: they can offer to restore some of the funds to districts serving children raised in poverty by linking them to vouchers and appear both high-minded and “innovative” in their approach while leaving neighborhood schools in place in the leafy suburbs where parents would push back if their schools were forced to accept voucher enrollees from nearby districts serving less well-to-do children.

This, too, is what plutocracy looks like.

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