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Con: Keep state money in public schools

By BY CAROLINA ASTRAIN - CASTRAIN@VICAD.COM
Jan. 27, 2013 at 10:02 p.m.
Updated Jan. 26, 2013 at 7:27 p.m.

Students gather their things in the hallway to leave for the day at Victoria private high school St. Joseph High School.

After going to private schools most of his life, the switch to the public school system was a breath of fresh air for 15-year-old Jitoku White.

"It's a lot more open here," the Liberty Academy freshman said. "It's more diverse, and you get to meet more people from different backgrounds."

But not everybody shares Jitoku's love for public education.

For the past few months, support for school vouchers has grown.

While supporters have said vouchers would satisfy their right to choice, opponents believe that would create further inequality in public education.

The move to a school voucher system would mean additional cuts to the $5.4 billion public education lost during the 2011 legislative session.

"Where is the choice and for whom?" asked Victoria school district board president Tami Keeling. "We already have choice in the public school system."

The transfer of public monies into private institutions also raises the questions of accountability, said VISD board member Ross Mansker.

"I think the concept is OK, but the implementation is the problem," Mansker said. "Private schools would need to follow the same rules as public schools."

Victoria West High School student council president Bethany Garza, 16, said the voucher system is just a way for legislators to avoid fixing the problems at public schools.

"Our public schools need all the help they can get," the West junior said. "Private schools get money for things they need through the churches."

Although a bill in support of vouchers has yet to be filed, opponents of the reimbursement program have taken strong preemptive measures against the movement.

State rep. Richard Pena Raymond, a Democrat from Laredo, has proposed a state constitutional amendment "prohibiting the authorization of funding of an elementary or secondary education voucher program."

"It's a subsidy for the wealthy," said James Piper, Port Aransas school board member and Bloomington High School principal. "This is just a masquerade bent on taking money away from public education."

Private school student Clara Allen, 18, agreed with Piper.

"As much as I love private school, they should use state money to improve the public school system," said the St. Joseph High School senior. "They shouldn't use it to send children to private school."

Other members of the private school community echoed Allen's support of public schools.

"Putting our kid through private school has been a great sacrifice for my family," said Cookie Reyna, St. Joseph mother and public high school graduate. "But that doesn't mean we should be taking money away from kids who need it in public schools."

In mid-January, the Victoria school board joined several other school board across the state in approving a resolution opposing vouchers.

Keeling said she hopes parents and students learn more about vouchers and the threats they pose to public education.

"These are issues that are gaining a lot of steam," Keeling said. "Groups like Raise Your Hand Texas and Texas Kids Can't Wait are great ways for people to get involved."

Related stories:

Pro: Parents should be able to choose where kids learn

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