May 29, 2017 1:29 pm

Texas House repudiates vouchers, Senate kills school funding bill

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by Charles Foster Johnson, Pastors for Texas Children

The Texas House of Representatives resoundingly repudiated private school vouchers​ in two separate votes, both by 2/3 margins, adding to the overwhelming defeat of vouchers in general from earlier in the legislative session.

In a surprising procedural move, the Texas Senate attached a voucher amendment to HB 21, the much-needed school funding bill providing structural relief for our community and neighborhood schools.

But, thanks to your strong witness and that of countless thousands of others, House Speaker Joe Straus, House Public Ed Committee Chair Dan Huberty, and other House leaders stood their ground against the Senate leadership’s cynical ploy, and returned HB 21 to a House/Senate conference committee with the instruction that no money whatsoever be diverted to private schools. At that point, the Senate conceded the defeat of the bill.

We do not now know if the governor will call a special legislative session to address a couple of additional issues the Senate and House have widely divergent positions about. If he does, we will still have to remain vigilant that a voucher amendment is not attached to any legislation. Vouchers are like zombies– they keep coming back from the dead.

It is crystal clear to us, from conducting 400 meetings around the great state of Texas over the past four years of our existence, that Texans love their public schools and do not wish to see them privatized through vouchers. We have witnessed tremendous community support for public education, led in no small measure by the faithful service of pastors and congregational leaders. We thank God for this consistent, steady servant leadership.

The work that lies before us will be substantial. We have much solidarity yet to show to our teachers and schoolchildren. And we have a profound moral charge to work in such a way that our elected officials in the legislature of the state of Texas understand that universal education for all children– regardless of race, economics, condition, and background–  is a basic human right before God, and provided by civil society everywhere.