Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, didn't have a lot of details to offer Wednesday when they convened a news conference to talk about what they said were key education reform proposals. Still, they said a lot.As expected, they called for a "school choice" program that would pay to send some Texas students to private schools. Patrick, whom Dewhurst named chairman of the Senate Education Committee in October, has long been a proponent of paying for private schooling with public money.Holding the news conference in a classroom of a Catholic school near the Capitol in Austin left no doubt about what he would say. He hasn't filed a bill for the plan yet, and he said he didn't know how many students it would affect or how much it would cost.Dewhurst said the whole thing might start with just a few districts taking part in a pilot project.But the key to Patrick's plan is how it would be financed. He wants to give businesses and insurance companies credits of up to 25 percent of their state taxes for donations to non-profit entities that offer scholarships for students to go to private schools. Some other states have similar plans.It's a shell game, shifting money from place to place.Money won't go straight from the state to any religious schools. That avoids the argument about breaching the church-state divide that some legislators have used against private school vouchers in the past.No money goes straight from the state to the program at all. Patrick is able to say, and he did, "It doesn't take money away from public schools."Still, that's a linguistic escape from reality. The same dollar that a business would otherwise pay to the state in franchise tax would instead go from the business to a non-profit, then be passed on (minus administrative expenses, presumably) to a school as a student's scholarship. If intentionally bringing in fewer dollars to the state is not the same thing as costing the state money, it's at least a financial clone.And public schools get money from the state based on how many students attend those schools.When students go to a private school instead, that means the public school doesn't get as much state financing. Again, it's the equivalent of a cost for the school.Patrick says the goal is to give parents a choice about where to send their children to school and to keep students from being trapped in failing public schools. That's the same thing as giving up on those public schools.And it's against the spirit, if not the letter, of the state constitution. That foundation of Texas government requires the Legislature "to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools."Setting up a system to channel money away from the state to private schools because some public schools are inadequate can't in any way be seen as an efficient use of state resources to improve failing schools. And giving up on public schools is just plain wrong.Patrick's other proposals include reducing the number of standardized tests high school students must pass before they can graduate, lifting the state cap on the number of charter schools, allowing students to take more career and technology courses and aiding online teaching.There's no doubt that education will be among the most prominent issues of the legislative session that begins Jan. 8.Diverting money to private schools should be among the most quickly rejected ideas.