Sara Stevenson, librarian at O. Henry Middle School in Austin, is already a hero of this blog for her relentless fight to stave off privatization of public schools. She writes articles critiquing legislation, she writes letters to the editor of local and national newspapers. I think she has had more letters published in the Wall Street Journal than anyone else I know. By now, she and the letters editor at the WSJ must be friends.

There is a clear way to think about where public money should go, whether it is called a voucher, an opportunity scholarship, a tax credit, or something else: Public money for public schools. Private money for private schools. If businesses want to help out private schools, they should make a contribution to them. If parents want to send their children to private or religious schools, that is their right, and they should pay for it, not expect to have the community pay for their choice.

I am old enough to remember when “school choice” was the battle cry of southern segregationists. How soon we forget. Or do we?

Here is Sara’s latest missive, written to the Austin Statesman-American, in response to the phony claim that “school choice” is the “civil rights issue of our time,” the goal being to get some public money diverted to support religious schools in Texas:

Sara writes:

It’s pretty rich for Bill McGee, the head of school for the Hill
Country Christian School of Austin, to frame the school choice
argument in terms of Civil Rights. Great marketing ploy. The school’s
website brags that 23% of its students are non-Caucasian and 19%
qualify for student aid. Contrast that to Austin ISD, where 60% of
students are considered low socioeconomic status, 74% are minorities,
27.6% are English Language Learners, and 10.1% are Special Education
students. Furthermore, the voucher amount does not come close to
paying the full tuition, which is $9,570 for K – 5th grade and more
for secondary.

McGee tries to persuade us that the “scholarships” donated by
businesses are not back door vouchers, but each “scholarship”
decreases the tax amount collected from businesses to fund public
schools. Each child removed from Austin public schools amounts to a
loss of over $7000.

Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric. House Bill 1043 and Senate Bill 4 are
just a tax break for families who are already send or are planning to
send their children to private schools. Furthermore, why should the
state support religious education? Public money belongs in public
schools. If schools, such as Hill Country Christian School want more
children of poverty, they must solicit donors directly rather than
suck tax dollars from state government coffers.

Sara Stevenson
Austin, Texas 78703