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Originally posted April 29, 2011
The following is an editorial from the Tulsa World
(Reprinted with permission. This is not an endorsement.)
It was an interesting, if not ironic, scene Wednesday. At the Capitol, the House of Representatives sat in its cloistered chamber and passed a bill aimed at strangling public education. Across the state, the Tulsa school board and superintendent were facing a large crowd and discussing how to save public education.
It was democracy at work, at least in Tulsa.
Senate Bill 969, advertised as a way for poor students to climb out of bad schools, passed the House 64-33 and now heads to the Senate.
What the bill really does is find a way for taxpayer money to pay for a private education. It is, in effect, a voucher system.
The bill would allow up to $3.5 million a year in tax credits for contributions to a fund that would provide private-school scholarships of up to $5,000 a year. Scholarship recipients must either meet certain low-income guidelines or live in a district with a school on the needs-improvement list.
That sounds good on the surface, but it is a Trojan horse. First of all, private schools, unlike public schools, are not mandated to take everyone who applies. Second, that $5,000 scholarship might sound like a lot, but in reality for many poor families it would not cover enough of the costs to be helpful.
It also could allow anyone who lives in a low-performing school's district to claim the voucher, regardless of income. As education struggles to make ends meet and as funding continues to be cut, the Legislature is dreaming up ways to punish public schools even further.
In the meantime, Tulsa School Superintendent Keith Ballard and the school board were at a public meeting talking with citizens about the Project Schoolhouse proposal that, although painful with the closing and consolidating some schools, could very well save public education in Tulsa.
Public education remains the backbone of the country. And the turnout at Tulsa meetings proves that it remains important to parents and the community. Too bad the Legislature doesn't take the time to listen.