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TEA Dropout Recovery Voucher Scheme Is Political Payback for James Leininger

Tax Dollars to Fund Private School Supported by Leininger Dollars, But Nearly Two Dozen Public School Districts Are Rejected

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 11, 2008

Giving public funding to a San Antonio private school for a dropout recovery program is political payback to a financial major backer of Gov. Rick Perry and private school voucher schemes, the president of the Texas Freedom Network said today.

"It’s hard to believe that a private school established just 10 years ago in a former roadside bar offers a more credible dropout recovery program than 22 public school districts whose applications for a grant were rejected," TFN President Kathy Miller said. "Just as interesting is that this private school would get public tax dollars just as James Leininger turns off his money spigot for a privately funded voucher scheme that allowed the school to open in the first place."

In addition, the application from Christian Fellowship of San Antonio indicates that three people who appear to be related John Rhodes, who founded and runs the private school, and Kerri Ann Rhodes and Kelli G. Rhodes will be paid partly through the grant.

A state district judge today refused to grant a temporary injunction to prevent TEA from providing public funding to Christian Fellowship of San Antonio and two other private organizations. The Texas State Teachers Association sought the injunction and has filed a lawsuit over the issue.

Christian Fellowship of San Antonio, an evangelical church, established Family Faith Academy in 1998 in a building that formerly housed a series of bars. The school accepted students who were awarded vouchers through the privately funded CEO Horizon voucher program in the Edgewood Independent School District in San Antonio. James Leininger pledged $50 million to the CEO Horizon program over 10 years or until the state instituted a publicly funded voucher scheme beginning in 1998. Leininger said in 2007 that he would stop funding the program after the 2007-08 school year.

Leininger has been a major financial backer of Gov. Rick Perry's political campaigns. Gov. Perry appointed Robert Scott as the state’s education commissioner in 2007. Scott has insisted that the Dropout Recovery Program grants be open to private schools like Family Faith Academy of San Antonio.

Such grants are a backdoor voucher scheme that the Legislature never intended to permit when it passed legislation to help school dropouts, Miller said. In fact, the Texas House voted 129-8 in 2007 to forbid public funding for private school vouchers.

"James Leininger has failed repeatedly to get a private school voucher scheme through the Legislature," Miller said. "Now the governor’s handpicked education commissioner has twisted the Legislature’s intent by creating a backdoor voucher scheme that puts public funding for private schools ahead of our neighborhood public schools."

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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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