ATPE believes in Texas public schools.
That’s why we strongly oppose any type of voucher program that would
direct funding away from public schools to private institutions. Voucher
proponents are attempting to create a need for vouchers by spreading
untruths to the public about our schools’ failures. In reality, Texas
public schools are making significant gains in student achievement and
gaining national recognition.
The 79th legislative session in 2005 posed
the strongest push yet for vouchers. The Coalition for Public Schools (CPS),
the anti-voucher group co-chaired by ATPE, met the challenge and once again
ensured that public dollars will remain in the public schools. All voucher
bills of the 79th Legislature either died or were killed.
What public school advocates faced
At the onset of the 79th session, Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst,
House Speaker Tom Craddick and House Public Education Committee Chairman
Kent Grusendorf (R–Arlington) all expressed support for vouchers. With this
influential support—not to mention that of donors with deep pockets—voucher
proponents felt certain that after years of failure, success would be finally
What voucher proponents didn’t count on was
the determination of public school supporters such as the CPS, which pounded
on legislators’ doors to reinforce the message that vouchers would hurt
public schools. Nor did they count on the thousands of educators, parents,
religious leaders and public school advocates who took the time to contact
their legislators urging them to stand up for public schools.
A debate to remember
On May 23 2005, vouchers, which at that time were attached to House Bill (HB)
422 (the bill to reauthorize the Texas Education Agency), came up for
discussion on the House floor. Hours of intense debate ensued—debate that
many longtime legislative insiders hailed as some of the best debate ever
seen on the House floor. Several lawmakers—including Rep. Bob Griggs
(R–North Richland Hills), Rep. Pat Haggerty (R–El Paso), Rep. Carter Casteel
(R–New Braunfels), Rep. Sylvester Turner (D–Houston), Rep. Rafael Anchia
(D–Dallas), Rep. Scott Hochberg (D–Houston), Rep. Bob Hunter (R–Abilene) and
Rep. Charlie Geren (R–Fort Worth)—debated passionately on behalf of public
HB 422 was eventually killed on a point of
order, but not before it became evident that voucher opponents were winning
the battle. Several key votes had already dismantled HB 422’s voucher
program. This is a sign that ATPE members’ efforts to reach out to
legislators—especially those who were under intense pressure from the
legislative leadership to support vouchers—paid off.
Our work is not done
On May 24, 2005, Perry said that “vouchers will be back.” And he is right,
because voucher supporters have a lot of money and influence on their side,
and they'll stop at nothing to bring vouchers to Texas. But public school
advocates can take heart in the fact that all voucher proposals from the 79th, 80th and 81st
legislative sessions either died or were killed … our success proves that dogged determination still
works in the legislative process.
For more information on vouchers visit
www.coalition4publicschools.org or contact
ATPE Governmental Relations.
Charter schools were created in 1995 when
the Legislature rewrote the Texas Education Code. They began as a limited
experiment (only 20 charters were authorized statewide) to provide parents
with an alternative choice to traditional public schools. Charter schools
receive public education funding but are subject to very little
regulation. The charter school program has continued to expand; currently,
Texas has granted more than 200 charters. Click
here for more information on charter schools.
Charter School Reform
The charter school experiment yielded a few schools that implemented innovative
teaching techniques to reach students struggling in traditional public schools but yielded many schools run by
individuals more interested in turning profits than educating children. Financial mismanagement of many schools
and failing test scores prompted the Legislature to pass House Bill 6, charter school reform legislation, in the
2001 session. The bill shifted much of the power over charter schools from the State Board of Education to the
Commissioner of Education and required the commissioner to create rules to implement
the provisions in the new law.
In 2002, the Texas Education Agency took input on these
rules, and ATPE actively participated in the process by submitting
comments and testifying at hearings on the rules.
New Charter Movement
A new direction recently emerged in the charter movement. During the 2003, 2005 and 2007 legislative sessions, several
attempts were made to create "virtual charter schools,” which essentially
translate to voucher programs for home-schooled students. Virtual
charters use public funds to provide online education programs and
computer equipment to home-schooled students and allow private companies
to rake in profits from taxpayer money that could be going to fund public
K12 Inc., a major provider of online
instructional programs and the main proponent of the virtual charter
movement, testified to the Senate Education committee that 50 percent of
its students who have enrolled in other states where the program currently
exists were home-schooled students before joining the program. This means
that the state would essentially be funding home-schooling with the
equivalent of a voucher at a time when public school funding is in crisis.
ATPE is not opposed to online education
programs and supports using technology to compliment traditional learning
techniques. However, ATPE is opposed to virtual charter schools that
enrich a for-profit company when the state can’t adequately fund our
current education system. Furthermore, state and federal regulations would
be practically unenforceable for thousands of home-based campuses. With
the state's budget constraints and many worthy education programs being
proposed for elimination or reduction it is inconceivable to consider
state funding for home schools.
For more information on virtual charter schools, contact
ATPE Governmental Relations.
Back to top