Sen. Patrick To Push For School Voucher System

Jan 15, 2013

State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, is pushing for a school voucher system called Taxpayer Savings Grants that would allow students to pick a private school if they are unhappy with their public school.

Now that he’s the chair of the Senate Education Committee, Patrick could use the platform to champion the program, and he has two words for a school voucher system: "Why not?"

Speaking on the floor of the Texas Senate, he said he believed students and their parents should be free to choose a school over one that doesn’t fit.

He says that's especially true if a student is in a low-performing school and the student is not wealthy.

"We don't restrict choice on anything we do,” Patrick began. “You can live where you want, if you can afford it. If you go to college, choose your community college or regular college. Go in the military, choose the branch of service. But in school: I'm sorry, this is your zip code, this is where you have to go."

Opponents say a voucher system won't be able to get off the ground because the grant won't cover private school tuition, making it a real hardship for low-income students.

Political consultant Bill Miller, who is a founding member of HillCo Partners, a lobbying group based in Austin, said private schools would be extremely overwhelmed.

"I think if you said, 'Well, you can pick your public school,' then I think you might have something that you could work with," he said. "But if you say, 'You can go to any private school you want,' one, they can't accommodate you, two, it's impractical, and three, I don't think it'll pass."

Lawmakers against the idea are concerned this isn't the way to fix the education problem in Texas.

Instead, many Democrats are pushing for education funding to be restored after the Legislature cut $5.4 billion to public education in 2011.