Texas primary election results

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Pastors for Texas Children have been much in prayer about the primary elections in our state yesterday. We congratulate all the candidates for their willingness to participate in our democratic system – a system that we believe is God-ordained– and we congratulate the winners of these democratically elected legislative races. We were privileged to join many other organizations in encouraging pastors and teachers, indeed all our citizens, to vote. Exercising our God-given freedom is a profound moral responsibility.

As we reflect prayerfully on the election yesterday, we are compelled to express our deep regret at the viciousness and cruelty that marked many of these races. Willful lying and unfounded character assassination, often funded by super-wealthy outside influences, have no place in just society. They are indecent and sinful. Texas can and must do better.

We look forward to close cooperation with all duly elected officials who are bound by constitutional oath “to make suitable provision for free public schools” for all Texas children.

For a full list of results go to:  http://elections.texastribune.org/2016/primary-election-results/

Pastors for Texas Children urges you to go vote!

Badge - 2008 electionDear Friends,

As I’m sure you all know, election season is upon us.  Early voting in Texas is taking place through Friday, February 26th and Election Day will be this coming Tuesday, March 1st .

Pastors for Texas Children would like to remind you to go vote for candidates that will support our neighborhood, public schools and the 5.2 million children that attend them.

With most of the races being determined in the primary elections in Texas, your vote is critical to ensuring that our public school children have what they need to be successful.

And would you kindly urge the teachers in your congregations to vote? We cannot imagine a better example for schoolchildren then to see their teacher proudly wear that sticker, “I’ve voted!” More information can be found at www.texaseducatorsvote.com

Again, we urge you to go vote this coming Tuesday, March 1st.  You can find out where to vote at:  http://www.votetexas.gov/voting/where/ .

God Bless You!

Texas Kids Can’t Wait issues legislative scorecard

KKW_Color_Logo_cmyk1Texas Kids Can’t Wait has just released their ratings on how legislators have voted in the last session on issues related to public schools.  See their information below:

Texas Kids Can’t Wait is releasing today its second Legislative Report Card. We feel strongly that all government should be accountable to the people for its actions, so accountability by public schools, as one major example, is meaningless unless, importantly, the Legislature, the Lt. Governor, and the Governor are held accountable for sound, evidence-based policies and for providing the necessary financial resources for the public schools to do their job.

If these leaders can enact laws providing for the closure of public schools that simply have low test scores, ignoring both the poverty of the homes of more than 60% of Texas school children, plus their continuing to inadequately and inequitably fund our schools, and, additionally, mandating bad practice, then it is the responsibility of the people to expose them, along with the consequences of their actions and inactions. On the other hand, those legislators who do strongly support public education and care about the outcomes of the five million children who attend public schools should be recognized, applauded, and supported.

– See more at: http://www.texaskidscantwait.org/media-center/#sthash.xlQOrJLL.dpuf

Nevada Supreme Court Will Review Voucher Program

By Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch-A Historian of education and Research Professor of Education at New York University.

Diane Ravitch-A Historian of education and Research Professor of Education at New York University.

“The Education Law Center reports that the Nevada Supreme Court will review a lower court decision that enjoined the state’s new voucher program. Nevada’s legislators enacted the most sweeping voucher program in the nation, despite the fact that the state constitution says unequivocally that public money appropriated by the legislature is to be used only for public schools. Now, we will learn whether conservatives are serious when they claim to believe in a “strict” interpretation of the federal and state constitutions. Even as conservatives celebrate the late Justice Antonin Scalia for his “originalist” interpretation of the Constitution and laws, conservatives in states like Nevada are twisting and ignoring their state constitution to destroy public education. The same thing happened in Indiana, where the state constitution was written to prevent public funding of religious schools. The court, dominated by conservatives, found a way around the clear words of the state constitution to allow the new voucher program to proceed. At the very least, they could call a referendum to change the state constitution, but they didn’t and they won’t. That might lead to a loss, as it has for every voucher referendum. Original language be damned.

VOUCHER CASE MOVES TO NEVADA SUPREME COURT

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt has asked the State Supreme Court for expedited review of a preliminary injunction blocking implementation of Senate Bill 302, the State’s unlimited private school voucher law.

In response to the Attorney General’s request, the Nevada Supreme Court has scheduled the parties to file briefs by early April. The Supreme Court has deferred oral argument on the case until the Court has the opportunity to review the briefs.

The lawsuit, Lopez v. Schwartz, was filed by five parents of public school children from across the state. The parents challenged the vouchers authorized by the law, called Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), which would be paid for by taking funds allocated by the Legislature for the public schools. The parents claim that ESAs, by diverting funding from public schools, will trigger cuts to essential programs and services and cause harm to their children and other children attending Nevada’s public schools.

In October 2015, the Plaintiff parents moved for a preliminary injunction to block State Treasurer Dan Schwartz from implementing the ESA law. The State Treasurer had set February 1, 2106, as the date to begin taking public school funding to pay for ESAs. The Treasurer has estimated that ESAs would result in a $17 million reduction in public school funding in 2016 alone, and that amount is expected to significantly increase in future years.

On January 11, 2016, Judge James Wilson of the First Judicial District Court in Carson City ruled the Plaintiff parents demonstrated that ESAs likely violate two provisions of the Nevada Constitution.

Judge Wilson explained that the Nevada Constitution requires the Legislature to appropriate funds for the operation of the public schools, which “must only be used to fund the operation of the public schools.” The Court continued that, if implemented, ESAs will mean “some amount of general funds appropriated to fund…the public schools will be diverted to fund” ESAs, and that this diversion of funds will reduce public school funding below the level deemed sufficient by the Legislature.

Judge Wilson also found that the parents “have [proven] that SB 302 violates Article 11, Sections 6.1 and 6.2” [of the Nevada Constitution], and that ESAs will cause irreparable harm to public school children. Judge Wilson issued an injunction to prevent the State Treasurer from implementing the law.

While other states have enacted various types of voucher programs, Nevada is the first to directly take funding from public schools to pay for private schooling. Nevada’s ESA program also has no cap on the amount of funding that can be taken from the public schools, or any income limits on households that can qualify for a voucher.

The public school parents are represented pro bono by Education Law Center; Munger, Tolles & Olsen in Los Angeles; and Wolf Rifkin in Las Vegas. ELC is also a partner in Educate Nevada Now!, a campaign to improve educational opportunities for Nevada public school children, with support from the Rogers Foundation.”

To read more on Diane Ravitch and the work she is doing for our education, please visit her blog.

Pastors file brief in support of public education

By Bob Allen

charles foster-johnson

Charles F. Johnson

A group of Texas pastors who support public education warned that a proposal to divert public funds to private schools would create a “parallel private system of education” supported by taxpayers in a brief filed Sept. 1 in the Supreme Court of Texas.

Pastors for Texas Children, an organization started by longtime Baptist minister Charles Foster Johnson in 2013, said the 1,200 faith leaders and 500 churches it represents “could not disagree more” with an earlier brief filed by the U.S. Pastor Council suggesting that an “efficient system” of public education must include vouchers and other means of redirecting government money to religious schools.

“The last thing our fine public schools need is more dollars drained away from them, and the last thing our fine private schools need is the government intervention and oversight that will inevitably and necessarily follow the public money they receive,” the brief argues.

The U.S. Pastor Council — with Texas leadership including pastors Ed Young of Second Baptist Church in Houston, Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas and Kie Bowman of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin — argued in a brief Aug. 18 that denying education funds to church-run private schools is a form of “religious bigotry.”

Pastors for Texas Children, however, claims the exclusion of religious schools from the public education system is not a violation of religious liberty.

“The current public school system does not force anyone to attend a public school or obtain a secular education,” the brief states. “Private religious education is available to anyone who cherishes it enough to bear the cost. We prefer the system where those who love and cherish a faith have to bear the cost of that faith. That is the way faith flourishes.”

Both briefs attempt to influence justices trying to decide whether the state’s current system for funding public education meets constitutional requirements. A four-year-old lawsuit brought by nearly two-thirds of the state’s school districts claims the state has not given them enough money to achieve higher standards that lawmakers have set for the 5 million students in Texas public schools.

Pastors for Texas Children says the current system of funding Texas public schools is inadequate to meet the needs of all students, but “the creation of a second, parallel private system of education, while neglecting the public system” would violate a provision in the state constitution requiring the legislature “to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”

Contrary to claims by the U.S. Pastor Council, the brief says programs that divert education funds to private religious schools “actually impede student achievement and harm the overall education system.”

Such schools are “not held to the same standards of accountability as public schools,” it says, and if public education standards were applied to them it would “alter the current parochial school system” by removing their right to set their own curricula.

“Faith is strong and alive in America because of the freedom of religion and the separation of church and state,” the brief argues. “In the places where this is not true, the church is an empty shell. Depending on the state for funds is a death sentence for free religion and vibrant faith.”

– See more at: https://baptistnews.com/culture/social-issues/item/30440-pastors-file-brief-in-support-of-public-education#sthash.rbhYyfx0.dpuf

Brief Summary of the 84th Texas Legislature

The 84th Legislative Session gaveled out on June 1 adjourning Sine Die. During the 84th Session there were a total of 6,276 House and Senate bills filed and a total of 1,323 bills were passed (not including resolutions). To further break down the statistics there were 819 House bills passed (a 12% increase from the last regular session) and 504 Senate bills passed (a 29% decrease from last session).

The final deadline of the 84th Session was the last day the Governor can sign or veto bills passed during the regular session – June 21. Governor Abbott ended up vetoing 42 bills from the 84th Regular Session not including line item vetoes.

Below is a review of the bills vetoed by the Governor. Additionally, click on the following links for the list of bills signed, vetoed or filed with a signature (including HCRs and SCRs):

Voucher Bills:

No voucher bills or voucher-type bills passed this legislative session.  SB 4 – a tax credit voucher bill – did pass the Senate but died in the House.

School Funding:

Education – For the 2016-17 biennium, public education saw enrollment growth funded and additional $1.5B in the Foundation School Program (FSP) over current law which includes: $200M from HB 7 addressing fractional funding; $55.5M for the Instructional Facilities Allotment to provide tax relief for property-poor districts issuing bonds for local facility needs; and $47.5M for the New Instructional Facilities Allotment to provide start-up funds for new district and charter school campuses.

Tax Relief – An increase in homestead exemptions ($1.2B) and franchise tax relief ($2.6B) will result in $3.8B tax relief. Those two bills combined with other tax relief bill passed during session, resulted in the final total for the 84th Session of providing over $4B in tax relief.

Rev. Charles Foster Johnson makes statement about the 84th Texas Legislative session

9841725Read the remarks of our Executive Director – Rev. Charles F. Johnson after the close of the 84th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature below:

“Having just finished our first legislative session as advocates for our 5.2 million public schoolchildren, we are left with two main impressions. 

 The first is profound gratitude for the public service of our Governor, 31 Texas State Senators and 150 Texas State Representatives who work diligently to represent the people of our great state.

 The second is a profound conviction that we can and must do better provide quality education for all our children. We are dismayed to learn not only that Texas lags behind the rest of the country in public education funding, but also that there is an orchestrated strategy to dismantle public education as we have known it, and privatize it into a profit-making enterprise.

 As ministers and faith leaders, we dedicate ourselves to bearing bold witness to our policymakers that education is a gift from Almighty God, a basic human right, a constitutionally provided public benefit, and a fundamental component of God’s common good mandated in Holy Scripture and moral tradition.”

Better session than many expected – we have a lot of work to do

Both the Senate and House of the 84th Texas Legislature adjourned “sine die” today, effectively ending the session.  Our friends at the Texas State Teachers Association provided their take on the the session below:

The 2015 legislative session presented an unprecedented challenge for TSTA and other public education advocates. With the election of Dan Patrick to the office of Lt. Governor and a much more conservative Senate that changed the traditional 2/3’s “rule,” pre-session press reports proclaimed that this was the session that would see a flood of private school vouchers and unrestrained charter and virtual school legislation approved. Sunday was the last day legislation could pass, and that didn’t happen.

Certainly, a few elements of the so-called ‘reform” agenda were adopted, and funding for public education was not adequately increased, but the legislators who stood with us, with parents and with students, kept the promise of public education in sight. We have a lot of work to do before the legislature meets again. We must fight for better funding and the forces of privatization will be back. We can meet those challenges provided we join with parents and local leaders who understand the important role public schools provide to our communities – and provided we support candidates for local school boards and the legislature who share our commitment to public education.

Thank you for contacting your legislators. Your calls and emails and personal contacts helped us write a different the education story at the end of this session than the one being written in January.

A trail of bad bills defeated…

A great deal of legislation heralded under the banners of “choice” and “reform” before and throughout the session could have been harmful to public schools and public school educators. Fortunately, with a few exceptions, most of those bills died, including those listed below.

  • Payroll Dues Deduction Prohibition: SB1968 would have banned payroll deduction of union and professional association dues by all political subdivisions, including school districts. The bill passed the Senate, but only after a group of key Senators held up the bill for about three weeks. The bill died in the House State Affairs Committee.
  • Vouchers: SB4, the “Tax Credit Scholarship” bill, died in a House committee
  • “Virtual Vouchers”: SB894, the costly unlimited expansion of for-profit virtual schools, was approved by a Senate committee but never had the votes needed for consideration on the Senate floor. It was never considered by the House.
  • Parent Trigger: SB14 passed the Senate, died in House committee.
  • Teacher Evaluation/Compensation/Elimination of the state teacher salary schedule: SB893/HB2543 passed the Senate, died in House committee
  • “Opportunity School District”: SB669/HB1536, passed the Senate but died in House committee. It was revived briefly as a “Statewide Turnaround District” (STD) in Senate amendments to HB1842, but the STD was stripped from HB1842 by a House-Senate conference committee.
  • Charter/Virtual School Accountability: SB1897 would have weakened charter and virtual school accountability. Passed the Senate, but died in House committee
  • Local Control (Home Rule) School District: HB1798, which would have allowed an unelected ‘lead petitioner” to control a Local Control (Home Rule) Charter Commission, was defeated on House floor

Two “reform” proposals that passed Sunday…

  • A-F Campus grading system. The bill passed the Senate and was ultimately included in HB2804, a major accountability bill approved Sunday. However, the A-F system is part of a bill that could reduce the impact of standardized testing on accountability and it will not go into effect until the 2017-18 school year, meaning the issue can be addressed in the next session before it goes into effect. More details on HB2804 are provided below.
  • Innovation Districts: The original “Innovation Zone” bill, SB1241, passed the Senate but died in House committee. A limited version of SB1241 – now called an “Innovation District” was approved by a House-Senate conference committee and passed Sunday as part of HB1842. An “Innovation District” would only be allowed for districts that already perform “acceptably” and could choose to operate outside state standards with 2/3’s approval of the local school board and approval of the local site based management committee. See more details on HB1842 below.

State Budget approved – education funding still inadequate, inequitable

On Friday House and Senate approved the HB1 conference report, the new state budget. Earlier in the session we were encouraged when the House attempted to provide an additional $3 billion for our public schools, plus $2.3 billion to cover enrollment growth. The final House-Senate conference committee budget provides funding to cover enrollment growth plus a mere $1.5 billion increase, a woefully inadequate amount that may not even keep up with inflation. TSTA can provide you the state funding projections for every local school district.

The state had enough funding available to fully restore education cuts at a time when Texas education funding lags almost $2,400 per pupil below the national average. Unfortunately, this budget left billions on the table unspent and put a higher priority on a $3.8 billion in tax cuts that is heavily weighted toward business tax cuts. The fate of school funding now rests in the hands of the Texas Supreme Court’s decision on the appeal of a district court ruling that found our school finance system unconstitutional.

Conference Committee Reports Adopted Sunday

HB1842, School Turnaround Bill

Innovation Districts in, “Statewide Turnaround Districts” and Virtual Charter expansion out

House Bill 1842, a school turnaround bill authored by House Public Education Committee Chairman Jimmy Don Aycock, was approved by the House and Senate with the addition of the “innovation District” provision that originated in the Senate. The conference committee rejected other Senate bills that were tacked on as amendments, including the “Statewide Turnaround District (STD”, also known as the “Opportunity School District” and Virtual Charter expansion.

HB 1842 included a number of changes in the law governing school turnaround.

Reconstitution was eliminated.

For campuses rated unacceptable for two consecutive years, the local school district would have to  develop a campus turnaround plan within a year, with parental and educator input required. This process could allow a local effort to propose the community school model as a campus turnaround plan.

The Commissioner would be allowed to reject a campus turnaround plan if the Commissioner determined the campus will not satisfy student performance standards within two years.

Failure by the school district to submit an acceptable campus turnaround plan could lead to the appointment of a Board of Managers (BOM) to replace the elected school board for two years.  The BOM would be paid for their service on the board, and if a campus remains unacceptable for two years after the BOM is appointed, the Commissioner could remove the original BOM and appoint a new BOM. In other words, the elected school board could be removed for four years, even if the BOM isn’t solving the problem.

The BOM option would also apply to charter schools.

The HB 1842 “Innovation District”

An “innovation district” (ID) could be established by a 2/3 vote of the local school board, following a majority vote of the district-level site based management committee, provided the district has an “acceptable” accountability rating. The ID plan could be amended or rescinded by the same vote by which it was adopted.

The ID would not necessarily be subject to many of the standards currently in the Education Code, including Chapter 21 (teacher contracts, planning period; etc.), Chapter 37 (discipline and classroom management) requirements and class size limits, and the district would have to list these “exceptions,” give 30 day public notice is given and hold a public hearing on the innovation plan.

A local innovation plan must provide a comprehensive educational program for the district which program may include innovative curriculum, instructional methods, and provisions regarding community participation, campus governance and parental involvement. The plan could also include modifications to the school day or year and must include provisions regarding the district budget, sustainable program funding and accountability and assessment measures that exceed the requirements of state and federal law;

HB2804, Campus Accountability, with A-F Campus Grading System, approved

HB2804 could improve the accountability system somewhat by reducing the impact of high stakes testing by establishing five accountability “domains”, which, in short form, relate to:

  • performance of student assessments (test scores);
  • “student growth” on assessments;
  • student academic achievement differentials among students from different racial and ethnic groups and socioeconomic backgrounds;
  • a number of campus based measures, including dropout rates, attendance, and the percentage of students completing AP courses and career-tech programs; and
  • locally selected measures of community and student involvement.

HB2804 does included the A-F system, but it would not take effect until September 2017, creating opportunity for “Invest, not Test” local organizing efforts that could lead the legislature to reconsider it. In Virginia the legislature did just that recently, repealing A-F before it was implemented.

Finally, HB2804 creates a 15 member “Texas Commission on Next Generation on Assessments and Accountability” that included 10 public members – four appointed by the Governor, three by the lt. Governor and three by the Speaker of the House. The remaining five members would include two Senators and two House members who chair education committees and one SBOE member. At least two parents and two educators must be included among the public members. This committee will provide a public forum for recommendations on testing and accountability for the next legislature.

HB2205 – Commissioner Subpoena Power added to SBEC bill

A provision of HB2205  would allow the Commissioner, during an investigation of an educator for an alleged incident of misconduct, to issue a subpoena to compel the production, for inspection or copying, of relevant evidence in this state. An amendment to modify this provision was supposed to be added to this bill but it was not amended.

Other conference committee reports adopted Sunday.

  • Senate Bill 313 by Sen. Kel Seliger requires the SBOE to review and narrow the TEKS for each grade level. In conducting their review, the SBOE must take into account the time a teacher would require to provide comprehensive instruction on a particular standard or skill and the time a typical student would require to master a particular standard or skill. The SBOE must also consider whether an assessment instrument adequately assesses a particular standard or skill.
  • Senate Bill 507 by Sen. Eddie Lucio states that, on request by a parent, trustee, or staff member, a school district or open-enrollment charter school must provide equipment, including a video camera, to each school in the district or each charter school campus in which a student who receives special education services in a self-contained classroom or other special education setting is enrolled. A school district or open-enrollment charter school must retain any video recorded for at least six months after the date the video was recorded. A teacher who is the subject of a complaint will be allowed to view a video related to that complaint.
  • HB 743 by Dan Huberty will require that before an assessment is administered, it must be found valid and reliable based on empirical evidence by an entity independent of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the test developer. The bill would require assessment instruments to be designed so that 85 percent of the students in grades 3 through 5 complete the assessment in 120 minutes and 85 percent of the students in grades 6 through 8 complete the assessment in 180 minutes.
  • HB 1305 by Greg Bonnen will authorize a school district which would otherwise be required to participate in the National School Breakfast Program to instead develop and implement a locally funded program to provide a free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch to all students in the school or schools eligible for the national program. The bill would amend the Education Code to change the calculation of the number of educationally disadvantaged students for purposes of calculating the compensatory education allotment within the Foundation School Program from averaging the best six months’ enrollment in the National School Lunch Program for the preceding school year to averaging the best six months’ number of students eligible for enrollment in the National School Lunch Program.
  • HB 1559 by Tan Parker will require certain schools that maintain an Internet website to post information regarding local programs and services, including charitable programs and services, available to assist homeless students.
  • HB3106 by Dan Huberty will authorize the Commissioner of Education, before the second anniversary of the date the board of managers of a district was appointed, to extend the authority of a board of managers for up to two additional years if the commissioner determines a district is making insufficient progress towards improving academic or financial performance.
  • HB 18 by Jimmie Don Aycock expands the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium from 20 to 30 participants. The bill requires TEA to develop uniform outreach materials that explain the importance of public school curriculum changes from the 2013 legislative session in HB 5; and requires each school district to provide instruction to students in seven and eight in preparing for high school, college and career.

Statement from Executive Director Rev. Charles Foster Johnson on SB 4

z818By a vote of 18-12, the Texas Senate today passed SB4, a bill providing tuition tax credits to donors giving scholarships to private schools.  In plain terms, a private school voucher.

In one piece of spectacularly bad legislation, the Senate managed the following abdications of its historic role to safeguard public education for all children:

First, SB4 diverts public money to religious schools, which violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution which expressly prohibits the establishment of religion.

Second, SB4 allows a reduction in the public treasury of funds that will be diverted to private schools.

Third, SB4 channels those public monies to private schools with no accountability or oversight about how those monies will be spent, giving them permission to discriminate on the basis of race, gender, religion, and special needs.

Fourth, SB4 creates a second parallel private system of education, while the Senate continues to neglect the lawful, public system.

Fifth,  SB4 violates the Texas Constitution, Article 7, Section 1 which says, “A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”

The very representatives of the people of Texas sworn by Bible oath before God to uphold the Constitution of the State of Texas voted overwhelmingly today to abdicate that oath by doing what no legislature in Texas has ever before done:  provide private school vouchers with public school money.  They did so while the State of Texas is once again unlawfully underfunding our neighborhood and community schools.  Our State benefits from the good fortune of a robust Texas economy while we hover near the bottom of our nation in per pupil spending.  In short, we continue to feast at the table of bounty while our children subsist on crumbs falling from that table.

We were told repeatedly by Senate members who voted for this bill that they did so only under great duress, for a self-confessed bad policy, contrary to the will of their constituents.  We are not naïve to feel that this kind of legislative manipulation can and must end.

Education is a gift from God accorded to all persons by virtue of their birth.  It is a core component of the common good holding civil society together.  We pray the Texas House of Representatives will find the courage lost on the Texas Senate to defeat this bad bill, and uphold their constitutional duty before God to defend, protect, and extend the benefit of public education to all the children of our great state.

Voucher bill expected to be put to vote in Texas Senate

April 12, 2015

AUSTIN – School vouchers have been introduced in each Texas legislative session for the past twenty years and each time overwhelmingly defeated.  But that’s not stopping privatization proponents in the Texas Senate from pulling out all of the stops and trying again this legislative session.   The vehicle of choice this time is a revised Senate Bill (SB) 4 by Sen. Larry Taylor from Friendswood. -SB 4 promises a “franchise or insurance premium tax credit for contributions to certain educational assistance organizations”.   The bill was passed out of the Senate Education Committee last week.

The bill proposes to authorize contributions to 25 “educational assistance organizations” (EAO’s) each of which must maintain 501(C)3 nonprofit status with the federal government.   In turn each of the EAO’s would award scholarships to students to attend a public or private school in Texas.  The donating taxable entity would then receive a tax credit for the amount donated, as long as it is less than 50% of the entities taxable value.

Proponents of the bill suggest that the bill will expand school choice for Texas families but opponents of the bill argue that it will drain much needed funds away from public education, provide no accountability and possibly endanger religious freedom.

Charles Luke, the Coordinator for the Coalition for Public Schools in Austin,  expressed concern that “this voucher program would provide lucrative tax breaks to the wealthy while the neighborhood public schools that educate the vast majority of Texas kids are told to do more with less.”    “Texas simply can’t afford to pay for two separate school systems”, Luke said, “one public and one nominally private but subsidized by the state, the first accountable to taxpayers and the second with no accountability.”

According to Rev. Charles Foster Johnson the bill violates religious freedom by giving public tax monies to private religious schools.  “When the church takes government funds, government intervention and government rules are sure to follow” Johnson said, “This is bad policy all the way around, trampling on our First Amendment rights, and opening the door for all kinds of corruption. Not to mention its destructive effects on the public trust of public education.”  Johnson heads up Pastors for Texas Children, a Texas-based nonprofit focused on mobilizing the faith community in support of neighborhood public schools.

Pastors for Texas Children urges members of the faith community to contact their state senators no later than Monday, April 13th and encourage them to vote against the revised SB 4 and against any type of voucher that may come up this session.

Interested parties may locate their state senator by clicking here.