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Diane Ravitch: Texas Senate Bill Means Less Money for Public Schools

Education historian and former assistant US education secretary Diane Ravitch on Tuesday criticized a State Senate bill filed last week to create Educational Savings Accounts.

Filed last Monday, Senate Bill 3 would subsidize private education by allowing parents to use Education Savings Accounts. They could spend the money on private school tuition. 

Ravitch said that if the bill backed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick passed into law, it would harm public schools for the benefit of students from wealthier families who can afford private tuition. 

"The deal with education funding is that it's not growing," Ravitch said. "Patrick's not saying, 'We need more money for education. And let's have Education Savings Accounts.' It's the same pot of money. Only there will be less money for public schools. And that's what this is all about."

Ravitch also said that the bill's language was deceptive because it does not clearly state that the funds will go to alternatives to public education. 

"It's one of the curiosities of the voucher proponents -- that they dare not speak their name. So, they don't ever say, 'This is a voucher bill.' ... Because every time vouchers have been put to a public vote, they have lost. So, I think that Lt. Gov. Patrick should just come out and say, 'Do you want vouchers?'"

She also criticized the state's plan to rank every school in Texas on an A-F scale. She said the system was designed to delegitimize public schools. 

"The schools in poor neighborhoods always end up in the F column. And the schools in the rich neighborhoods always end up in the A column," she said. So, you may as well dispense with ranking the schools and just say, if you attend school and you're poor, we're going to turn your school into a charter."

Ravitch was speaking ahead of a symposium on education at the campus of Texas A&M University-Commerce.  It was hosted by hosted by KERA reporter Stella Chavez.

She was joined by university president Ray Keck, Commerce Independent School District superintendent Charlie Alderman and Paris Junior College president Pamela Anglin

The symposium came as Vice President Mike Pence cast an unprecedented tie-breaking vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as the next U.S. secretary of education. 

The confirmation was a defeat for Democrats who hosted an all-night session to delay the vote long enough to convince at least one Republican to withdraw support. 

"She's a huge advocate for vouchers and school choice. She doesn't like public schools. And for some reason that qualifies her to be secretary of education," Ravitch said.  

A former assistant education secretary in the George W. Bush administration, Ravitch supported legislation like the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

She eventually became convinced that charter schools were harming the public education system. She is now an author and research professor at New York University. 

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