Rally for private-school vouchers and corporate charter schools: A distraction from the need to support all Texas schoolchildren

Louis Malfaro, president of Texas AFT, the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, commented on today’s event in support of private-school vouchers and corporate-chain charters at the Texas Capitol:

The Texas Legislature and statewide officials have a duty under our state constitution to provide a system of free public schools for more than 5.1 million children.

The clamor from certain quarters for state subsidies to private schools and corporate-controlled charter schools is a diversion and distraction from meeting the constitutional obligation to provide adequately and equitably for all children in our public schools.

What’s really needed is support for programs proven to work for all our kids, like “Community Schools” programs, which use a coordinated plan for comprehensive services to address the needs of students and their families through their neighborhood public schools.

Just this month a new national study found that Texas ranks 49th in per-pupil funding among the states, after adjusting for regional cost variations. Other studies have shown that our public schools would need $600 per pupil in additional aid—several billion dollars a year—just to get back to the modest level of funding they received before the Great Recession and the state budget cuts of 2011. A state district court has held that the current state system of public school finance violates the state constitution’s commitment to adequate and equitable funding.

Draining scarce taxpayer dollars away from public education to benefit unaccountable private operators is not a strategy for school improvement. It would compound the ongoing violation by the state of the constitutional right to a quality public education for all our students. That is the reality that the private special interests behind vouchers and corporate-charter expansion tried in vain to mask today by mustering a few hundred supporters and deploying a rhetorical smokescreen of solicitude for Texas students on the grounds of the state Capitol.