State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, has been promising that the Senate Education Committee he chairs will consider legislation giving tax credits to businesses that donate money for student “scholarships” to private and religious schools in Texas. It appears that Sen. Patrick has found a senator to file such a bill: Democrat Eddie Lucio of Brownsville.
A Rio Grande Guardian article on Wednesday was the first to report that Sen. Lucio would file the tax credit voucher bill, justifying the scheme this way:
“It’s more of a tax credit bill where businesses are going to be able to have a chance to contribute to a very worthy cause of helping a group of students who will be classified as poor and needy and at risk. I feel very strongly that we should help everyone regardless of how we approach the issue.”
But Texas doesn’t need a law for that. Businesses (and anyone else, for that matter) already have the freedom to contribute to scholarships at private and religious schools.
In any case, both Senators Patrick and Lucio insist that their tax credit scheme isn’t a “voucher” plan. But it is. Instead of the state providing the direct tuition voucher to private schools, lawmakers would give a tax break (a credit on owed taxes) to businesses to do it. So tax dollars that would otherwise go to fund neighborhood public schools in Texas would wind up subsidizing private and religious schools instead. It’s something like legalized money laundering. The result would be diverting millions of tax dollars from public schools on top of the more than $5 billion in budget cuts lawmakers passed just two years ago.
Voucher lobbyists have pushed tax credit schemes in other states. Eight such states had them as of spring 2012. This fact sheet details how these schemes are a sham, with vouchers often going to students already attending private schools or to the children of donors instead of those from low-income families (as promised by voucher lobbyists).
It’s disappointing, to say the least, that a Democrat who has stood up for public education for years has now aligned himself with the very lobbyists who promote these voucher rackets and aren’t really interested in helping public schools. In fact, Sen. Patrick and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst held a December press conference about improving education — at a private school!