Thanks @JasonVillalba for being with us today! #1K4RALLYDAY #backthefuture pic.twitter.com/PC5FbyfyuW— Marni Kaner (@MarniKaner) February 28, 2017
[Texas State] Sen. Don Huffines is passionate about giving public school students the choice to attend private schools.
But he's raising eyebrows because of the combative tone he used Monday in Austin during a discussion about education at Texas PTA Rally Day with a group of students from Richardson ISD.
During one exchange, a student pushed back against a proposal to give students a stipend to attend private schools. She said, as other critics contend, that the voucher would not be large enough to allow the student to go to many high-dollar schools in North Texas.
"It won't work," she said.
Huffines countered by asking: "Do you want me to give them $15,000 so they can go to Hockaday or St. Mark's? That's the most selfish thing I've ever heard."
I'm a bit baffled why public schools are so bad students must be allowed to seek private school education, yet expensive schools are too expensive for public school students. I would expect a school that could educate students on only $5000 per student wouldn't be a vast improvement over the "failing" public schools, myself. I'm sure the Senator could explain it to me, once he calmed down. Or maybe I should read the transcript:
The student asked, “Excuse me Senator, I don’t mean to offend you but you are speaking on behalf of the students, and as a student of public education I disagree with this completely. I’ve gone to a private school before…with these vouchers, what are you going to get — $5000 a year? The majority of these private schools are $5000 a semester. How are lower income families supposed to pay for the rest of the school year?” Huffines, with a very combative and condescending tone answers, “Oh, so it doesn’t pay for all their education. It doesn’t pay for all their education, does it? The $5000 won’t pay for it, right? So you’re saying since we’re not giving them enough money to pay for all their education, screw ’em they can’t go to private school! Do you want me to give them $15,000? Is that what you want? So they can all go to Hockaday or St. Mark’s? That’s the most selfish thing I’ve ever heard.”
What? Private school vouchers will not work if a family can’t afford to make up the difference, but as usual, there are some politicians that don’t care that lower income students will always be left behind on measures like this.
Huffines is actually giving the game away here. The voucher isn't meant to pay for poor students to attend "good" private schools. The purpose of the voucher is to help those who send their kids to St. Mark's or Hockaday get some money back on the school taxes they still pay. More than they pay in taxes, no doubt, but vouchers have precious little to do with getting kids out of "failing schools." You can see from what he says he doesn't care about poor kids or their education; so what is the reason for vouchers, Senator?
“What are you scared of,” he shouts. “What are all y’all scared of?” One parent says, “That money you’re sending to private schools should be used to enhance public schools.” Huffines responds, “What makes you think it isn’t? What makes you think it’s your money? It’s the businesses. It’s their money. Sixty-two percent of all property tax is paid by business.”
He's right on that last point, at least as far as the statistic goes. But once that money is paid to the state, it becomes state money, which makes it "our money." Believe me, I've been around state entities enough to know their biggest concern is how they spend the money. (I've also been around state politicians and yes, some of them are just this bad.)
Well, at least he apologized later, right?
A spokesman for Huffines said the senator acknowledged his tone was off.
"While the policy was right, Senator Huffines' tone and delivery today did not live up to the level of civil discourse that he always expects of himself and others," said Matt Langston, a spokesman for Huffines. "Senator Huffines is unapologetic in his support for education choice, because it's a policy that supports students. He will not hide from passionate or heated debate on the issue."
Langston then compared the meeting to an "ambush."
"Where other politicians might have run, Don Huffines stayed and endured the ambush-style attack, then calmly answered more questions for 15 more minutes, including questions from students," he said.
17 year old girls jumped me!
But Meredyth Childress, a PTA member and mother of one of the students at the meeting, said the students were not political operatives looking to "ambush" Huffines. They were given articles to review about private school vouchers before meeting with the senator. "We're very proud of the students," Childress said. "Both sides were passionate. One side displayed the proper respect and decorum. One side did not."
Well, students armed with information is an ambush during the legislative session. Everybody in Austin knows that.
Richardson ISD Superintendent Jeannie Stone said she was proud of how the students responded and grateful they attended the event with her and the PTA.
"My disappointment in Senator Huffines' comments is only exceeded by my pride in our students, who showed Austin how well public school students are prepared for life after high school," Stone said in a prepared statement. "They were poised and ready for a fact-based conversation about some of the most pressing issues facing Texas today."
Later Monday, Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, tweeted a photo of him with the Richardson group and said Huffines "ruined their day."
On the other hand, Sen. Huffines didn't tell the black students they were lucky to have HBCU's to attend before the University of Texas was integrated. Our public officials aren't THAT dumb!