October 2, 2022

Bekah McNeel: While Campaigning on “Parental Control,” Top State Officials Champion School Vouchers

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Texas is one of several states where leaders have long desired to implement vouchers, but couldn’t quite pull it off. Part of that is because of the divide between rural and urban taxpayers.

“It looks like voucher programs in the past have always been about subsidizing affluent to wealthy folks who want private school for their kids,” said Charles Luke, codirector of Pastors for Texas Children. His group has always opposed vouchers, not only on the basis of the potential cost to public schools, but also on the grounds of separating church and state. Luke worries about government interference with religious or church-affiliated schools. “Government interference isn’t good for the church,” he said.

The story visits the small town of Palestine, where the issue of school funding, services, and vouchers hits home.

Even more critical to the community are the school district’s special education and school nutrition programs, the likes of which are not available, at least not as expansively, in most private schools, Marshall said. If what parents want is an explicitly Christian curriculum or more-relaxed attendance rules, they may be happier with a private school, he acknowledged, but “you go looking for that next layer of services and it’s just not there.”

The piece captures nicely how accountability works in a small town. 

Abbott won Anderson County with 79.5 percent of the vote in 2018. Another school-voucher proponent, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, garnered 75.8 percent. But Loveless, the school district publicist, says that doesn’t translate into support for everything the Republican party champions. She describes the majority of her neighbors, fondly, as “Reagan Republicans”—they like small government, she says, and that’s what a school district represents: not bureaucrats, but neighbors. On education issues, members of the community “know they may not get their way all the time, but we listen,” Loveless said.

They listen, she laughed, because if they don’t take the phone call, parents will just catch them at the grocery store or after church. They have to be on the same team, even when they disagree, she said. The Palestine Wildcats don’t just play for the high school; they represent the whole town.

The piece takes a good look at the issues surrounding school vouchers and the threat such vouchers pose to a critical part of small town life. You can read the full article here. 

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