by Angela Valenzuela
Now here is a disturbing, if revealing, story about one our Texas senators named Don Huffines (R) who represents District 16 in the Dallas, Texas area, a senate district, by the way, that has some of the wealthiest school districts in the state, referred to in the Texas Education Code as “Chapter 41 districts” that have a significant tax advantage well after paying into Texas’ recapture fund for distribution to the vast number of “property-poor,” Chapter 42 districts in the state of Texas.
And now representatives like Senator Huffines want to further extend that advantage via education savings accounts (ESAs) that receive state taxpayer payments or school credits—which is what SB3, a bill on which he is a co-author is all about. SB3 also happens to be a priority of Governor Abbott and Lt. Governor Patrick.
Clearly, however, not even in their own school districts do folks feel similarly. Check out how he treats his own constituents of color, including PTA parents and students in Richardson ISD who are asking him questions about vouchers: Senator Caught On Tape Yelling At Kids During A Private School Voucher Discussion (recorded on Monday, February 27, 2017; read transcript here).
This incident even caused Texas House Member Jason Villalba to Tweet:
"Is it time for new leadership in #SD16?" Villalba tweeted. "I am a little tired of hearing how my own state Senator is incapable of almost every duty he has."
Shameful. Tsk tsk. Wasn’t the whole point of the Republican-led, education reform movement in the form of high-stakes testing and accountability to create a system where demography would not be destiny? From the mouth of the "Education President," George W. Bush himself, remember the highly-touted rationale for Texas-style accountability? "All children count!"
Geez, this agenda even involved swiping the "No Child Left Behind" slogan from national civil rights leader Marion Wright Edelman, founder and director of the Children's Defense Fund— sneaky, calculated move to mask its real intention of labeling, ranking, shaming, and blaming public schools to justify taxpayer dollars going into the for-profit sector.
Regrettably, even civil rights organizations of repute in the broader Latino community drank and continue to drink the Kool-Aid despite extensive evidence to the contrary of its harms alongside significant political challenges against it involving large numbers of top education leaders and school districts throughout our state and nation (see FairTest.org, as well as this blog). I even have a whole book about this.
That said, if you are a politician and you do not even want to talk to people who are being reasonable with you—and who are understandably concerned about school vouchers since this connects to their children's futures--you are being dismissive—which is how racism, sexism, and classism frequently get manifest.
I guess it’s easier to lash out at students and parents than to own up to your own narrow interest that seeks to further privilege the already privileged in our state. Perhaps Huffines' wealthy constituents themselves are feeling the pinch of private schools and could really benefit from dipping into the public purse to pay for their children’s tuition to places like Hockaday and St. Mark’s that surfaced in his diatribe. Check out their websites and tuition. The parents of these K-12, private-school children pay annually what many parents pay annually for their children’s four-year, university education.
To read another take on this, read this piece in Texas Monthly’s Burka Blog, Will Vouchers Save the Schools or Starve Them? Senator Huffines’s outburst to students shows the fervor of the debate. February 28, 2017 by
The best thing about what happened here with parents is that Huffines exposed his willingness to sacrifice his own, not-so-well-endowed constituents to the altar of school privatization even if accomplished at their expense.
If you see the video, it’s interesting to see how anything outside of what he thinks is good public policy for the state of Texas like fairness and equal access to a quality or even elite education for all is an inconvenient challenge to the neoliberal Nirvana that he wishes upon us all: Vouchers and school privatization for the rich and the McDonaldization of public education for poor.
What great recipe out of the Republlican playbook for disenfranchinsing the “have-nots” while simultaneously securing their incumbencies.
C'mon, Huffines. The math is easy. From the video, we practically even have this stated in your own words:
Vouchers=the best education you can buy
Kudos to the Richardson District PTA, parents and students! Maybe he ruined your day, but you pressed him on an issue of grave concern to us all. Hopefully, your courageous questioning has helped to put this agenda to rest this legislative session. We can only hope.
#TxLege @RichardsonISD #PTA