On Aug. 24, Texas Sen. Dan Patrick conducted a legislative hearing laying the groundwork for potential legislation to establish a private voucher program.On Aug. 28, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said, "I personally don't have any problem with a program in which children's parents receive a payment from the state and are able to select which school that they go to."Gov. Rick Perry and Education Commissioner Michael Williams also endorse vouchers. But such a program of government money to private schools could be a wolf in sheep's clothing.Giving government money to private schools inevitably would make them government schools, as political strings always come attached with government money.Hillsdale College in Michigan, where I was a vice president, accepts no federal or state government grants or loans. Occasionally, the college would receive an angry letter from parents protesting the college's policy because it denied their children access to lower-interest, federally subsidized Stafford Loans.I would always respond that I had read all of the federal rules, within which were a plethora of radical ways the government could control any school, including elementary and secondary schools, that accepted federal grants or loans.The same holds true for state funds. When Republicans control the Legislature, they focus in education on efficiency and productivity. When Democrats control, they focus on diversity, affirmative action and social justice.State legislators have a fiduciary responsibility to require accountability for public funds given to the private sector. It is in this area of accountability that political interventions can be mandated.Whether one favors it or not, the "10 percent rule" for college admissions is an example of political intervention. That's the rule that gives students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class automatic admission to state colleges and universities.Another example: During this past year, many argued that Perry sought to politically control the University of Texas and Texas A&M through his appointed regents.Some will argue that grants and loans (or vouchers) should be directed to parents or to students themselves, and that schools therefore would not actually be the recipients of government money. That argument doesn't help.In l984, the Supreme Court ruled in Grove City v. Bell that federal aid directed to students who then attended a school made that school "a recipient of federal financial assistance" and therefore required the school to comply with certain government regulations.The same applies to state financial assistance, making the school subject to state regulations..In 1988, Congress, under the Civil Rights Restoration Act, broadened the term "recipient" to include an entire school: "The terms 'program or activity' and 'program' mean all of the operations of ... a college, university, or ... a local educational agency, system of vocational education, or other school system." Note that this would include elementary and secondary schools.To be sure, private schools do not have to take public vouchers. But many, if not most, will if they are offered.Following a defeat of a voucher proposal in California some years ago, the Association of Christian Schools International found that 132 of its California member schools supported public vouchers going to their private schools, with 21 opposed and 25 neutral.Why not take it? It's "free" money. Except it's not: It's taxpayer money, and sooner or later government controls will seep in.By then, private schools will have become reliant upon government money and will not be able to do without it. And religious schools might even find their religiosity controlled politically by government regulations: 80 percent of private schools are religious.Many people object to government/taxpayer money going to religious schools or even to private schools. And with limited, competitive admissions slots, what will determine student-admission policy -- grades, economic status, diversity, religion, location, proximity?Taking government money in education is a Faustian bargain.Ronald L. Trowbridge, who lives in Conroe, was chief of staff to Chief Justice Warren Burger. firstname.lastname@example.org.