If Buyouts Were Fine for Teachers, Says Local Lawmaker, Why Not Offer to Students Too?

SidMiller.jpeg
State Rep. Sid Miller
Last night in Austin, state Rep. Sid Miller laid out a novel solution for Texas's troubled school budget: the Taxpayer Savings Grants Program, a reward of nearly $5,000 for any parents who'll do us all a solid and take their kids out of public school.

Under Miller's plan, parents would get 60 percent of the money their local school district would've spent on their kid to put toward private school tuition instead (more than enough, with diplomas going for $399), while the state keeps the other 40 percent of the money for itself. "It takes students out of the system, leaving the same pile of money for less students," said the Republican from Stephenville.

Leaving aside the fact that the state's pile of money would, in fact, not be the same, Miller acknowledged his bill amounts to a statewide school voucher plan, "an old idea in a new way," he said.

That old idea wasn't popular enough to be considered during the Legislature's regular session that ended late last month -- hasn't even seen a vote on the House floor since it was shot down in 2005 -- but in the GOP free-for-all of a special session we're in now, it's chugging right along in the House Government Efficiency & Reform Committee.

One could probably make the argument that the House Public Education Committee ought to hear a bill about pulling students from the public schools system -- but Miller came ready to argue vouchers are just good money sense. "Call it whatever you want, it's something we've been doing for a long time in Texas," he said, comparing the program to state-funded grants for students at private colleges.

Anyway, Miller said, school districts around the state have been paying to get people off their payrolls for months, only "it wasn't for students to leave the district, it was for teachers to leave the district."

Describing his bill for the committee, Miller promised all kinds of advantages -- vouchers would save teacher jobs in the short term, he said, and help drive up public teacher salaries in the long term, once competition with private schools set in. Then, of course, students leaving the public school system would need someone to handle all the new demand. "We'll actually create teacher jobs in the private sector," Miller said.

Miller, no friend of the ladies, or, incidentally, the feral hogs, delivered a rapid-fire, often self-contradictory sales pitch last night (watch it here, starting around 2:45:00) promising an overall improvement in the quality of education thanks to lower class sizes, then conceding his bill would affect "the low income, the impoverished and the minorities that are in the failing schools, overall, not in a positive amount." But Miller stuck to his guns. "I don't have a problem rewarding high achieving schools and making the less productive schools have to compete for students."

In rural districts where there just aren't that many schools outside the public system, Miller said his plan would be "a windfall," because the statewide savings -- about $850 million per year, he estimated -- would mean $220 more per student in public schools.

Miller discounted an estimate from the Legislative Budget Board that suggested the state would actually lose money the first two years, saying he'd fixed the problem. Still, while Miller estimated six percent of Texas' public school students would take vouchers, the Texas Education Agency's estimate is far lower: less than one percent.

Dan Quinn at the Texas Freedom Network, an Austin group that's long been critical of school voucher plans, tells Unfair Park that Miller's appearance with the voucher bill, before a committee that isn't focused on education, was "kind of bizarre" last night. "It's a farce," Quinn says. "Taking money out of public schools is going to save teachers jobs. How's that possible?"

As one piece of pro-voucher evidence, Miller argued that a 10-year private voucher experiment in San Antonio's Edgewood Independent School District from 1998 to 2008 led to a huge improvement in the district. But Quinn says Edgewood's schools only really improved from around 1993 to 1997, after a budget move that gave the district more money. "It's very misleading when they claim that all this progress was made there, because all the hard work happened before the voucher program got there."

While the Plano-based Liberty Institute, right-wing Texas Public Policy Foundation and San Antonio's Justice Foundation are all backing Miller's efforts, Quinn says vouchers are less of a partisan issue than many of the others before the Legislature now. For now, lawmakers left Miller's bill sitting in committee, though it could still get tacked onto another budget measure as an amendement too.

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32 comments
Simon
Simon

What about those of us who choose to homeschool? $5000 a year would easily subsidize curriculum/supply purchases for a year - at least for younger kids.

CheeryBitch
CheeryBitch

Little Cheery is in private school. (The ISD out here is dreadful!) $5000 doesn't cover half of the annual tuition, which is on the lower end of tuitions in the area. Chaps my hide that we still pay property taxes to fund the schools. One reason because we see how it's wasted, and another because we see the products coming from the school. The Texas education system is woefully flawed. And I though Louisiana, my home state, was bad!

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

The fact that it's the brainchild of Sid Miller, longtime "worst" Texas legislator, author and sponsor of every bullshit, kooky bill out of this session, only supports the multitude of rational reasons this bill should die immediately.  If this bill were to pass, it would cause civil war in Texas.

SCSalon
SCSalon

Don't forget that Sid Miller's wife runs a charter school in Stephenville Texas named Erath Excels. Miller was at one point listed on the board, and ran afoul when, a few years back, he fought against raising academic standards for ... charter schools (Erath Excels had unacceptable ratings two years in a row several years back). Don't know about the details of this TPSGP, but one wonders if that cash bonus might go to charter schools instead of traditional public schools or in lieu of that, how hard it is to turn a charter school into a private school.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

How about this for an idea-If I do not have children why am I paying school property taxes?   How about freeing those who are at the point in life (age perhaps around 45 plus) who do not have children (or their children are no longer in school) from paying school property taxes?

bmike
bmike

Totally against this plan.  Totally for a voucher system.  Problem one with this plan is that $5000 is not enough for poor families to send their children to most private schools.  Texas spent about $9200 per student in 2010.  Give a voucher for that amount and many of the very good private schools in the area are within reach.  The second problem is that this plan only takes away from public schools.  Allow these vouchers to be used at any public or private school and then you have something,  There are some great public schools that would flourish under a voucher system.  How can anyone be against this?  Many students are doomed to a poor education under the current system.  Why not give them a way out?  Seems like the biggest problem with public education in the US is the culture.  We have a culture that does not value education enough.  Competition for openings in great schools could help change this attitude. Once a student landed a spot in the school of their choice would they not work harder to keep it?  Would schools work harder to improve and offer innovative programs?

...says the libertarian.

Dro
Dro

Public education needs to be blown up and redesigned. It's a "fat cat" culture. They don't know how to run efficiently. They expect a bottomless supply or cash from the state. Teacher unions are also a large part of the problem. (I fully support workers right to unionize) Teacher Unions have helped to create a culture of doing the minimum and allowing bad and poorly performing teachers to keep teaching jobs that they no longer deserve. I'm all for education vouchers as well as for a tax break for families with no children in public schools. I'd also like to see districts hire more CEO types and quit going after superintendents with education backgrounds ONLY... they are from the very public education culture that is flawed and corrupt. The problem is the culture that public education has created and allowed and financial. If I did have a child in public school I'd be wishing for an education voucher to help get them out ASAP. This should allow the state to shut down these poorly performing school as well as weed out the bad and poorly performing teachers. Save money by cutting dead weight. Lastly I do agree that education voucher would consequently create jobs for teachers at private schools. And how about year around school so these children can stop dumbing down and getting into trouble during the down time? It's as if the people running the show don't have the stomach to do what seems so obvious. Oh wait... I keep forgetting, it's corrupt and all about the money, not our children's education! Now child of mine will ever see a public school. 

Augie
Augie

Could this be another way of saying, get the Mexicans out of schools and washing dishes in restaurants where they belong?  Bottom line is, there isn't enough money to fund schools properly because of Republican actions in 2006. Rather than admit to this colossal blunder, Republicans will do anything to avoid paying the full cost of educating Texas youths.  Fire teachers? Sure!  Increase class room sizes?  Sure.  Kick kids out of school...check.  

Actions have consequences. The sins of the past are here to be dealt with now.  A plan like this will have consequences too, though it may not be obvious for while.  Lets see what might happen...more drop outs, more: unemployment? unwanted pregnancy?  Drug abuse?  Crime?  Those seem obvious, the freakanomics possibilities are endless.   

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Even though I don't tilt this guys way politically, He makes a great point. The majority of the issues w/ public school systems is the fact the way the money is collected on the local level, then redirected to the state and is pissed away. I, for one, would like a tax refund for the money that I don't use in the school district (DISD) due to the simple fact my wife and I don't have children. I think if you use the product, you pay for it. If you don't have kids, be it by circumstance or choice, or decide to spend your money on a better private/charter school, why pay for the other low hanging fruits mistakes in supporting their little mouth breathers, who'll most likely end up either knocked up or with a jail record by age 16...

Jack E. Jett
Jack E. Jett

I just want to make certain I am clear on this.  We are having to get rid of qualified teachers due to lack of funds...however we are thinking about funding the TV series DALLAS??????Our state has one of the worst records on education, but we can afford to give out free sonograms to women based on right wing religious reasons.  Am I going to have to move to Austin and govern this State?

Kitwench
Kitwench

I homeschool on less than $500 a year - if I went out and bought expensive curriculum and counted the costs of the extracurricular programs my children are enrolled in, I might reach $2500. Texas needs the program Oklahoma is trying this year - they're spending $1000 per student in an online public school that instead of yet another *forced* one size fits all curriculum, permits parents to choose from a wide variety of online curriculum.Such a program in Texas *would* leave more money in the budget - and if the state allowed the public school losing a youth to this program to keep 1/2 the monies lost per kid, the state would STILL spend less money, the child would get an education suited to THAT child, parents would get a choice and everyone would win!

HEY YOU, IN THE BACK
HEY YOU, IN THE BACK

If Texas would allow for Casino gambling, those billions flowing into Louisiana from Texas would stop. That would be one hit to La. If D.C. starts cutting back on federal money to states Louisiana would be one hit the hardest. That's another hit to your home state.

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

I often wonder on what planet those who claim $5000 would pay for private school reside.  

Citizen Kim
Citizen Kim

Thanks for the info.  I figured Pig Face wanted to steer kids into good Southern Baptist private schools and away from them lib'ral Godless public teachers.  But it turns out he's just using the system to pad his wallet, as are most of the "conservative" leadership down in Austin.

PayingUpFront
PayingUpFront

That would be super not to pay for property tax for schools, since I don't have kids and never will, but I'd rather have educated children/adults than dumb a** hoodlums who don't contribute anything to society and suck on the welfare teet.

Jay Hawk
Jay Hawk

Educating the community isn't something you can opt out of. Unless you move to a remote section of Montana.

scottindallas
scottindallas

We do this, once you hit age 65 taxes are frozen.

Guest
Guest

How about if none of us pay taxes for anything we don't use?

scottindallas
scottindallas

Highland Park would be against this plan.  After all, under your fully top down, state wide socialized plan, why would we be restricted by school districts.  You really need to go back to the drawing board, or rather the classroom.  The funding of schools via property taxes complicates your system, creating perverse and arcane funding scenarios.  Again, private schools succeed because they are selective--all these voucher/charter school arguments ignore that.

Augie
Augie

Droid for Republican blather...Get your facts straight before you barf up the party line where the readers have a brain.  Texas schools spend 46th most money per kid of the 50 states.  Are there inefficiencies and under performers - of course, with so much controlled at the local level that is as inevitable as insurance companies in Texas over charging consumers.  Teacher unions, like all unions in Texas are weak tea, not the all powerful monster you've conjured up and that may be true in some states.  

The reality is, your teachers are as good as what you pay for and no better.  You do not get the best and brightest by paying the least...you should know that from you talk radio programming, I mean listening.  By making massive cuts to an already underfunded education system that performs at almost the exact level at which pays (near the very bottom) you get for sure get less teachers, less admins and more students per classroom. That is a key to improving education how?  In an affluent suburb with a top tier ISD, assistant principals are being eliminated, and arts being reduced, such at not hiring a replacement art teacher, who left to go teach in another state where he'll be paid better.  

So, you and this jackwagon want to change up the payment system so that private schools get a bigger slice of the pie.  Where is the empirical proof that on a massive scale, private schooling is better and more efficient and produces better results than public?  Sure, it works where the rich can afford to pay for the very best teachers.  How is it supposed to work in the majority of the state where the districts are primarily poverty stricken? Private schools do have and will have corruption and inefficiencies just like public schools.  This entire subject is a distraction from the only issue that really matters, schools are not going to be properly funded next year because the legislature in 2006 was either incredibly inept at their jobs and put in place a broken tax system that shorts the budget $10B a year.  Now school kids state wide get to pay the price from their ineptness.  I hope the voters have enough common sense to see who did this.  

Vouchers - if they work so well, put them in place in a test ISD in rural west texas, but, give them no more money than the public schools get now...then show some results.  Do that and people will listen. Otherwise, this is just a pipe dream. 

Guest
Guest

Collective Bargaining by Teachers (Teacher Unions) are forbidden in Texas.

http://www.businessinsider.com...

And teachers may or may not be over/underpaid depending on where they work, but they get nothing but grief.  There is no fair way to measure a teachers ability it is purely perceived opinion, therefore most peoples perception is you get mediocre teachers, but the standards for getting into teaching programs are high GPA's in undergraduate course work.  Peoples opinion because they teach a test, but really they teach the best way that is not quite fair to your student but is most likely fair to all students.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Think most of the dead weight is on top of your shoulders.  A "fat cat" culture?  and you want more CEO's running schools?  You've got your facts and figures a bit skewed.  The fat cat culture has destroyed our jobs and made teachers salaries seem lucrative.  Like your watery head, all the waste is at the top. 

scottindallas
scottindallas

You also got a discount on your house for buying in a less desirable school district. 

Ed D.
Ed D.

You use the school system because you live in an educated society where people can, in general, read and write and do math and all the other benefits of education. You should be able to opt out of this no more than you should get a refund for defense spending because you're not in the army.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Jack, the real issue at the root of all of this is how this state funds schools. Its a broken system of wealth redistribution that takes monies out of communities that should keep it and gives them to Sweet Knuckle Junction ISD in west texas. If schools in this state had local control over their money, I wouldn't think this would be an issue

..and yes my good sir, I would vote you in as governor of TX in 2014..i'll vote ya in!!

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

With the rate that the DCAD raises home values by the time (in 9 years when I reach age 65) my taxes for the DISD are frozen I will be effectively taxed out of my house. We are talking >10 percent per year for the past 15 years I have lived in my home. All due to developers flipping properties. I recall Southwest Securities had a burp on the housing values (before the real estate crash of 08 that the DCAD refuses to acknowledge, after all the chant from city hall has been (and still is) "it's not happening here (even after the real estate bubble burst) just look at all the construction cranes we can see from our windows" ) that showed what the value trend would be from 1980 on a modestly priced home around 150 thousand to 2000 and then finally to 2030 when it would be valued at near 1 million. This is and proves to be unsustainable –note the news reports about home prices due for another downward correction.

And what do we get for it as tax paying citizens. Not educating our children. Lets face it the public school system is more like a paid day care for children as the parents have abrogated their responsibilities of their children’s education and attempt to force it upon the tax payers.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Perhaps a check list of programs on one's property tax---Wonder how many would check things like convention center hotels and suspension bridges to fund?

Dro
Dro

You have any children in a public school? I agree with some of your points. But education seems to be the only area where poor performers are let go. I know it can be a matter of opinion but I disagree that there is no way to measure it. I'm a corporate trainer, I prepare people to do their new h=jobs. How am I measured... by the performance of my students. Why they began to tell their directors that they "didn't know that" or "we were never taught that" or even better when the fail to perform up to standard, guess who gets called to the principals office. I then follow up with some refresher work and if need be I'll schedule one-on-ones... I'm measured by how well I prepare them. If there is concern, I'm encouraged to do more or be replaced by someone who will get'er'done. I've been at it for 8 years now. We all may not agree for "whatever" reasons but we can't sit here and ignore the 800lbs Gorilla that is public education. It's failing us. 

Dro
Dro

I said CEO types. They're facing budget cuts in the millions... no 8 year teacher and 12 year principal can navigate a district through that, they lack the experience and not enough of them have faced times like these. Corporations face similar budget cuts regularly and the leadership there is better suited to make it out of that situation. 

Also Scott I didn't insult anyone... why go there? Nor have I claimed any of this to be fact, I stated my opinion like everyone else here does. Yes a fat cat culture... "woe is us we're having our budget cuts". Guess what, my job laid off over 500 people last year and we're still standing. Cut the dead weight (poorly performing school and teachers). There is a story on here today that as many as 33 schools are regarded as "unacceptable". Close the bad schools and fire poorly performing teachers... I have several friends who are educators in DISD and even they say that there are far too many "fat cats". When I vote to increase education spending I'm expecting better teacher salaries, better books in class, computers, etc. Not for some absentee administrator to go hire his daughter-in-law as his 2nd secretary. If things were as good as you say 150 teachers wouldn't have line up to take the buy-outs like it was a Rolling Stones concert or something. 

This mess wouldn't fly in any other culture but education. If you are a teacher Scott, I ask you this, have you ever held any other job as an adult? I'm not one for hard lines but I say this... don't ask me for tax dollars for schools that should be shut down anyway. Don't ask for more of my tax dollars for teacher salaries if you insist on keeping the poorly performing teachers. Fire the under performers and shut down these pitiful schools, don't ask, beg and play victim when we don't want to keep throwing cash at it. 

I have 2 younger sisters... from each parent respectively after they divorced. One went to Hockaday and one to a well known school in DISD, the difference in the education, development and preparation for college is like night and day. Public schools are losing and I for one feel like they are doing our children an injustice. Even when I talk to my teacher friends even they admit that they can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, they don't believe in the leadership and with peers who have... to use the words of a friend who teaches outside of DISD (Glenn Heights is where she lives) she a department head and was trying to rally the teachers to make a strong push just before the state test and she was saddened b/c... "Many of them had tapped out as early as March". So I ask you Scott, I'm a humble man and I've been wrong countless times in my life, but if I am wrong, why don't you share with us what is right? Tell us what we should do Scott, leave things as they are, shut our eyes, click 3 times and wish we were back in Kansas? 

Guest
Guest

Sweet Knuckle Junction ISD is awesome. All their classes are taught by Fabricated Americans.

I'm not sure that letting schools in this state have local control over their tax money would actually solve the problem since I'm going to bet that a shit ton of districts, especially those in rural areas of the state, couldn't fund their operations without largess from the wealthier districts.

Of course, then we have to start asking ourselves whether letting all those dying farming communities have their own independent school district is in the best interests of the state's children.

Guest
Guest

It would be an interesting way to gauge people's true reactions. We can point to things like the hotel or the river road and note that they were approved by voters (though, as we all know, election turn out is often quite miniscule), but if a taxpayer saw a line item on his tax bill showing exactly how much of his/her money goes to a specific project, who knows what the support would really be (though if we were given the ability to opt out, we'd probably all just opt out of everything and dare them to find us using whatever we hadn't paid for).

But as it is, I can see how much I pay each year to the local school district (at least in direct property taxes) or to the community college district (I'm not sure the community colleges could get by without my $81 per year)

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

..and thats another point we need to make. Many of these small rural districts are sucking up resources and then wasting them just as much as large city districts, most of that goes into maintaining facilities and paying support staff outside teachers. Heres a thought: Perhaps all public schools in Texas should be allowed to offer classes online, like colleges do now. Instead of teaching tests, school teachers should be allowed to actually teach the core subjects that will allow these young men and women to become productive members of society, instead of being just goverment level babysitters...

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