Category Archives: vouchers

Wealthy home-schooler, voucher promoter joins the campaign against educator voting

 

The campaign to scare educators into staying away from the polls has now widened to include a group with a deliberately misleading name and a Texas-sized reputation for mean-spirited political intimidation.

Empower Texans has joined the attack against educators. This group’s goal is to weaken and privatize public schools enroute to shrinking state government. It was founded by a superwealthy West Texas energy businessman named Tim Dunn, who home-schooled his own children, founded a private, religious school in Midland and has made vouchers a major priority. There may be nothing wrong with the rich getting richer, but not by taking our tax dollars away from our public schools.

The “empower” part of Empower Texans applies only to those few Texans who, like Dunn, are wealthy and view government as an obstacle and public education as a lucrative profit center waiting to be tapped. So, it is very important to them that educators don’t vote.

According to a recent report in Quorum Report, a lawyer for Dunn’s group has written an intimidating letter to school district employees around the state urging them to blow the whistle on any colleagues who they suspect of using district resources to promote voting in the March primaries.

The letter followed a politically inspired “legal” opinion by Attorney General Ken Paxton, also trying to throw cold water on efforts by educators, including many superintendents, to encourage school employees to vote and to make education their priority issue when casting ballots.

There is no evidence that any school district is misusing tax dollars to support selected candidates, and, despite the attorney general’s suggestion, there is no law against school employees drumming up a large voter turnout among their colleagues. One of the traditional purposes of public education is to foster a sense of civic responsibility among students, and that is easier to do if teachers and other adults in their lives set the example.

But Dunn obviously realizes that educators who vote education first are not going to be voting for any of Empower Texans’ slate of candidates, people who win Dunn’s backing by promising to vote for vouchers and cut education spending.

To secure his goals, Dunn also wants to elect a new speaker of the House who will promote vouchers and squeeze funding from neighborhood public schools. House members who are elected this year will choose the next speaker, the successor to Joe Straus, who repeatedly blocked the Dunn-Dan Patrick-Greg Abbott pro-voucher agenda.

Empower Texans’ letter to school employees is sprinkled with words and phrases like “crimes” and “illegal behavior,” all designed to intimidate educators from voting or encouraging others to vote.

Dunn and his cohorts should be ashamed of themselves, but they aren’t. So, it is up to educators to let them know what you think of their tactics. Don’t be intimidated. Go vote and Vote Education First! And take a few dozen of your colleagues with you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Neglecting health care for kids while boosting the wealthy; how did your representative vote?

 

Passing that awful tax bill on the eve of the holidays was bad enough, but the majority in Congress compounded the felony by failing to renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program before 2017 drew to a close. A CHIP bill never came to a vote.

That means a huge package of tax cuts and tax breaks for the super-wealthy and what amounts to a private school voucher plan for K-12 are a lock, while the hard-working parents of about 8.9 million low-income American children (almost 400,000 in Texas) still don’t know if they will be able to get basic health care for their kids after existing funding runs out in a few weeks.

Want to do something about it? You can. This is an election year, and here are the members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House from Texas who voted for the tax bill while putting off the health care needs of children:

Both U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn voted for it. Cornyn won’t be up for re-election until 2020, but Cruz will be on the ballot this year. Cruz not only voted for the tax bill, but he also was the sponsor of the voucher amendment that was tacked on to it. His amendment will allow parents to spend as much as $10,000 per child per year from their tax-advantaged 529 savings accounts for K-12 tuition at religious and private schools. Previously, those accounts were limited to college tuition.

The new tax law also will add more than a trillion dollars to the deficit and potentially jeopardize some crucial programs for middle- and low-income Americans, including Social Security and Medicare, when the bills for the billionaire tax cuts come due in a few years. Here are the U.S. House members from Texas who voted for the new tax law. Some aren’t running for re-election, but most are:

Louie Gohmert (District 1), Ted Poe (District 2), Sam Johnson (District 3), John Ratcliffe (District 4), Jeb Hensarling (District 5), Joe Barton (District 6), John Culberson (District 7), Kevin Brady (District 8), Michael McCaul (District 10), Mike Conaway (District 11), Kay Granger (District 12), Mac Thornberry (District 13), Randy Weber (District 14).

Also, Bill Flores (District 17), Jodey Arrington (District 19), Lamar Smith (District 21), Pete Olson (District 22), Will Hurd (District 23), Kenny Marchant (District 24), Roger Williams (District 25), Michael Burgess (District 26), Blake Farenthold (District 27), John Carter (District 31), Pete Sessions (District 32) and Brian Babin (District 36).

Kevin Brady (District 8) also was the chief House sponsor of the tax law.

If you don’t know who represents you in the U.S. House, go to the link below, fill in your home address and under district type, select “congressional.”

http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx

Elections have consequences, and this new tax law is one of them. So is the neglect of children’s health care. Now, there will be another election, and a chance for change.

 

 

The education consequences of electing Ted Cruz

 

As you may know, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is running for reelection next year, and he will claim to be representing your “best” interests in Washington on just about anything you want to hear, including education. Fortunately, of course, you don’t have to believe him, and you shouldn’t.

For one thing, Cruz voted for that awful tax bill the Senate passed last weekend. (So did Texas Sen. John Cornyn, but he isn’t facing the voters this cycle.) And to make the bill even worse, Cruz sponsored the anti-public education voucher amendment that was added to the measure.

Elections have consequences, folks, and if you are an educator who believed Cruz’s campaign malarkey and voted for him last time, you may want to avoid shooting yourself and your colleagues and students in the foot again next year.

Cruz’s voucher amendment, which passed on a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence, would allow parents to spend as much as $10,000 a year from their special 529 college savings accounts to pay tuition at private K-12 schools. Cruz claimed his amendment would “expand options for parents” and “prioritize the education of the next generation of Americans.”

Baloney.

The new tax break, if it stays in the final version of the bill and becomes law, would primarily benefit wealthier parents while undermining public schools where the vast majority of children in Texas and other states will continue to be educated.

Another bad provision in the bill that could undermine public school funding would curtail the deduction of state and local taxes from the federal income tax returns that you file. The legislative majority in Texas already under-funds our public schools, and this added restriction on federal tax deductions could increase the political incentive of legislators to starve public education even more.

All in all, the Senate tax bill, like its House counterpart, is a blatant scheme to make the richest Americans richer and to heck with just about everyone else. Now, negotiators from the two chambers will meet, mostly in private, to try to reach a compromise to send to President Trump before the end of the year.

The overwhelming majority of Americans will be better off if the effort fails. But if there is going to be a tax bill, educators should demand that one Senate provision remain in the final bill. This provision would allow teachers to deduct as much as $500 a year from their federal income taxes for out-of-pocket expenses on school and classroom supplies.

The present deduction of $250 a year was wiped out in the House version of the bill.

 

 

Tax bill would kill deduction for student loan interest, promote vouchers

 

Elections have consequences, and some more of them are showing up in anti-educator and anti-student provisions in the tax bill drafted by the Republican majority in Congress.

Not only would the bill repeal the $250 tax deduction that under-paid teachers are now afforded for purchasing classroom supplies out of their own pockets, it also would kill the deduction that teachers and millions of other Americans have been able to take for interest on their student loans.

The interest deduction has been as much as $2,500 a year, but it would be wiped off the books. That would increase costs for college loan borrowers by as much as $24 billion over the next 10 years, according to the American Council of Education, which represents 1,600 colleges and universities.

The tax bill also would promote a back-door approach to private school vouchers by allowing taxpayers of any income level to set aside as much as $10,000 a year in tax-free accounts for expenses at private K-12 schools. These tax breaks, which would benefit the wealthy more than anyone else, would drain federal dollars from government programs, including public schools, where the vast majority of children will continue to be educated.

All in all, the tax bill is a poorly disguised attempt to further enrich the top 1 percent and corporations at the expense of educators, students, their families and other middle- and lower-income taxpayers. Use the following link to tell  your representative in Congress that you oppose this bill.

Urge your member of Congress to oppose this tax bill

GOP tax bill would kill deduction for student loan interest

 

 

 

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