School ‘choice’ effort is as flawed as ever


Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaks Tuesday during a school ‘choice’ rally on the steps of the Texas Capitol.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaks Tuesday during a school ‘choice’ rally on the steps of the Texas Capitol. AP

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is never going to give up trying to spend taxpayer money on educating Texas students in private schools. He’s said as much.

He may package the effort differently, as he has in several legislative sessions, but the end result is the same — public money siphoned from public schools and sent to private schools.

Try as he might, no matter the glowing terms he uses, Patrick will never be able to make that right.

Joined by Gov. Greg Abbott, Patrick launched another such effort Tuesday at a “National School Choice Week” rally on the south steps of the Texas Capitol in Austin. News reports said the event drew thousands of cheering students and family members.

The bill outlining the method Patrick will propose in this year’s effort has been designated as Senate Bill 3, but it has not yet been filed.

He’s expected to advocate education savings accounts, in which public funds are deposited in a family’s account, possibly on a debit card, to help pay for private school tuition and fees, online programs, tutoring or even save for college. We won’t know for sure what Patrick has in mind until we see Senate Bill 3.

Two years ago, he backed a bill that would have allowed corporations to donate money to nonprofits to be passed on to students as private school scholarships. The corporations would then have received credits toward their state insurance premium taxes.

That bill passed the Patrick-led Senate but died in a House committee.

Patrick, Abbott and others have no trouble making these bills sound good. They say it’s all about “choice,” allowing parents to decide where their children should attend school, even providing a lifeline to escape failing public schools.

But what these programs inevitably would leave in their wake is a problem: public schools with even less money than they had before, trying to serve students who for one reason or another — learning difficulties, physical disabilities, lack of transportation — could not make the jump to a private school.

The solution to failing public schools is smart state and local leadership that improves those schools, not sending precious public education funds to private schools.