No Vouchers for Now
Late this afternoon, Senate President Bingman and House Speaker Hickman announced jointly that the two voucher bills would not be heard today. In effect, this kills both bills for the remainder of this legislative session.
The Education Savings Account bills in the Senate and House of Representatives would have allowed parents to use a portion of the state dollars used for their child’s public school education to pay for private school tuition or home schooling. But the bills apparently didn’t have enough backing to even bother bringing it up for a vote.
“Honestly I don’t think they had the votes to pass it,” said Sen. Brian Bingman (R) President Pro Tempore.
On the Senate side, sources told News 9 that 29 of 50 senators planned to vote against the bill.
“I think a lot of the concern would be the economy,” said Bingham, “with education and everyone taking cuts. A lot of people that might be in favor of it philosophically, just the environment probably not conducive to, in their opinion, passing that bill.”
In the House of Representatives sources said there were more than 60 lawmakers that opposed the bill including every democrat.
“Thousands of families, parents and teachers have e-mailed and called their representatives and senators for the last several weeks telling them they did not want vouchers to pull money away from public schools at a time when they desperately need it,” said Representative Scott Inman (D) House Minority Leader, “And their voices were heard.”
This doesn’t mean that legislators don’t have tricks at their disposal to make vouchers magically reappear at a later date. I think it’s unlikely for now, though – at least until after the candidate filing period in April.
Not only are vouchers bad public policy; they are also a distraction from the serious work to which our Legislature needs to attend. When I visited the Capitol Tuesday, I talked to a few legislators and several assistants in their offices. Most are more worried about helping school districts with funding than with fringe issues such as this.
Well, maybe not this guy.
Yes, Paul Wesselhoft, a term-limited legislator from the Moore area called the lack of a vote on vouchers “a disgusting development” and quickly chalked it up to the “educational establishment.” Quick – where’s my score pad?
Actually, this isn’t the time to keep score. Funding needs to be the focus. Sure, there are still education bills moving forward. Some are good, such as HB 2957 and SB 1170. And some are lousy, like SB 1187. We’ll get to that later. For now, we need to focus on keeping good teachers in the classroom.
The people who want to lambast public education – people like Wesselhoft – will never see the good in our schools. That’s fine. We can find better people to represent us.
For now, just know that the voices of #oklaed have made a difference.