Unfortunate goal of school choice movement

David Currie, Special to the Standard-Times

PTC Board Member David Currie

PTC Board Member David Currie

Many years ago, Jerry Falwell articulated the goal of the school choice movement well when he said, “I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!”

Since the beginning of the religious right movement with Falwell, Phyllis Schlafly, Pat Robertson and others, the aim has been to destroy public education in America. Today they are closer than ever to achieving their goal because it is now being promoted by the president, his education secretary Betsy DeVos and Republican leaders in Texas government including the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, agriculture commissioner and land commissioner.

This is what you have elected in Texas, my friends, by choosing party over sanity.

Vouchers, school choice, education savings accounts — they are all code words intended to mask the real aim of this movement: destroy public education in America and turn all schools into institutions of religious indoctrination.

Now you may say, “Well, David, you are being an alarmist. It would never go that far. Why not try it in Texas?”

Pastors for Texas Children, on whose board I serve, will host an information session at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 9, at Southland Baptist Church. Speakers will include Veribest Superintendent Bobby Fryar and Barry Haenisch, executive director of the Texas Association of Community Schools. The purpose is to answer that very question for you.

But let me do my best to answer it here. I live in the Wall ISD. If 20 students get $5,000 apiece to leave the public school to attend a private school, Wall ISD will lose close to $130,000 that can’t be replaced. That money is just lost. No teacher can be fired, no bus route stopped, no money on utilities saved — they just lose the money.

So let me speak bluntly to my friends in the Wall ISD (and you can apply this to any ISD in our area) — when you keep electing right-wing, religious right Republicans at the state and national level, you are voting to close our schools. Please figure that out before it’s too late.

Notice I didn’t say all Republicans. State Rep. Drew Darby is a Republican who opposes vouchers. No, I said “right-wing, religious right” Republicans such as Dan Patrick, Ken Paxton, Ted Cruz, Sid Miller (yes, we have a Texas agriculture commissioner who is trying to destroy our rural communities — he sponsored the voucher bill when in the Texas House). Please take the time to learn where different Republicans stand on our children’s education.

Now let me warn you about something else. Since 2008, the state has reduced spending on education by $339 per student and reduced the state’s share of spending on public education from 44.9 percent to 38.4 percent. They keep pushing the burden onto local taxpayers while bragging they are cutting taxes. (They do this to our counties as well).

Public education already is underfunded by the state; if vouchers pass we will be using tax dollars to support both public and private schools, which will harm our public schools even more.

David R. Currie, Ph.D., serves on the board of Pastors for Texas Children and is the chairman of the Tom Green County Democratic Party.