Texas Bill Proves School Vouchers Still Have no Traction in the House

Lauren Williams's picture
Monday, April 8, 2013

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. This week, some state Republicans wanted the House to lap up private school vouchers, touted as a panacea by Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and Sen. Dan Patrick. But when it came time to vote, the house must not have been thirsty. Vouchers were shot down in a 103-43 vote.

The bill in question was a budgetary amendment filed by Corpus Christi Democrat Abel Herrero, that prohibits public money from being used for private schools. Although Herrero indicated on the floor that he believes the bill would apply to tax credits as well as vouchers, it is unclear if the bill itself supports his claims. The language seems to open a loophole, as long as the credits are not diverted from the Texas Education Agency.

That loophole, though, must have been cold comfort to school choice cheerleaders who had made vouchers a legislative priority. Adding insult to injury, Herrero introduced the bill with a shrug. His nonchalance could perhaps be attributed to a lack of zeal from Speaker Joe Strausand many rural Republicans. Or perhaps Herrero simply knew that history was on his side. The issue of "school choice" (i.e., public money for private schools) has consistently floundered in the lower chamber for almost a decade.

Still, the weight of history did not stop Tea Party theatrics. As always, several GOP freshmen were eager to "think of the children." Putting on his best Mean Joe Green, Scott Turner tossed his jersey at the poor kids "trapped in schools that are underperforming." Ron Simmons accused Herrero of derailing any debate whatsoever. And Debbie Riddle, who only acts like a freshman, painted an educational landscape straight out of Les Misérable. After letting the contingent have their say, House members were quick to call for a vote – no doubt exhausted by the (at that juncture) eight-hour budgetary marathon.

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