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'Dropout Recovery Program' Could Lead to Private School Voucher Scheme in Texas

Legislature Never Intended for Public Tax Dollars to Be Spent on Private School Tuition

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 27, 2008

AUSTIN - In Friday's notification for a Request for Application for Dropout Recovery Programs, Education Commissioner Robert Scott made good on his threats earlier this year to misuse House Bill 2237 to create the state's first publicly funded private school voucher program, Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said today.

Presumably with the approval of the governor and the enthusiastic support of voucher crusader James Leininger, Commissioner Scott's RFA directly contradicts the will of the 80th Texas Legislature, which refused to pass any measure that would allow tax dollars to be used to pay tuition at private and religious schools, Miller said. The Legislature, especially the state House, has repeatedly made it clear that public tax dollars should be used to fund public schools, not private schools.

"Even worse, this program’s loose rules would make it relatively easy for parents to simply withdraw their children from public schools and have them identified as 'dropouts' so that the state pays for their private school tuition," Miller said. "That was clearly not the intent of lawmakers last year who sought innovative ways to help public schools reduce dropouts."

Perhaps not coincidently, this is the final year for Leininger's privately funded CEO Horizon voucher program in San Antonio, Miller noted.

"Will parents of students receiving CEO Horizon vouchers simply enroll their kids back in San Antonio public schools for a week, remove them and then affirm that they've dropped out for any of a number of reasons identified under TEA rules simply to send them right back to their private CEO voucher school at state expense?" she asked.

"The Texas Legislature has been clear for more than a decade that public dollars should be used to educate students in public schools and they have rejected voucher schemes of all stripes repeatedly," Miller said. "Gov. Perry and Commissioner Scott should abide by the will of the Legislature on such an important issue."

The Request for Application released by the Texas Education Agency on Friday seeks applications for the dropout recovery program from nonprofit organizations operating as private schools; local educational agencies (LEAs); open-enrollment charter schools; institutions of higher education (IHEs); county departments of education; and education service centers (ESCs). Entities would use the grants to provide instructional and other services for students identified as public school dropouts.

To be identified as a dropout under the program, students must meet one of three criteria:

- They have withdrawn from a Texas public high school and been identified by that school as a dropout for reasons defined in Texas Education Agency rules (such as pregnancy, marriage or academic performance).

- They have been previously enrolled in a Texas public secondary school but not been in attendance for at least 30 consecutive school days during the regular school year.

- They have a notarized affidavit from a parent or legal guardian stating that the student dropped out of a Texas public secondary school under one of the first two circumstances and is not currently enrolled in a Texas public school.

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The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of religious and community leaders who advance a mainstream agenda supporting public education, religious freedom and individual liberties.

 

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