Sunday, February 26, 2017

Unlikely allies: some homeschoolers fighting to kill school choice bill | The Texas Tribune

Unlikely allies: some homeschoolers fighting to kill school choice bill | The Texas Tribune:

Unlikely allies: some homeschoolers fighting to kill school choice bill
Rural conservatives and homeschoolers are joining forces with public education advocates against Senate Bill 3, which pushes private school choice. Their state senators are not all on the same page.

 Nicki Truesdell is a product of homeschooling and would never enroll her four younger children in a public or private school. Corrine French has spent the last five years serving on the board of a rural public school district in North Texas.

Both are terrified a "private school choice" bill will pass this legislative session.
The longtime friends say they were surprised to find themselves on the same side of an education policy fight as state senators consider a bill to give parents debit cards to pay for private school and homeschooling, using taxpayer money. The polarizing issue has brought together unlikely allies, with some homeschoolers, rural conservatives and public education advocates fighting what they see as an encroachment on their schools.
Texas senators with rural constituents are not necessarily on the same page. Several have expressed support for some version of Senate Bill 3, and the two Republican senators who voted against last session's private school choice bill are keeping mum about whether they will continue to oppose a bill that is particularly important to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Patrick has been fighting for a voucher-like bill since his first session as a state senator in 2007. Two years ago, he rallied senators to a successful 18-12 vote for a similar bill. That bill died after the more politically moderate House did not take it up for a vote.
SB 3 would create two public programs subsidizing private tuition and homeschooling expenses, with one program available to families of any income. Truesdell, a leader of a statewide grassroots group called Texans for Homeschool Freedom, has organized thousands of parents on social media to oppose any private school choice bill.
"I'm a lifelong conservative. I've voted Republican all my life. To find myself on the opposite side of the Heritage Foundation and the opposite of [U.S. Sen.] Ted Cruz — it's very shocking and concerning to me," Truesdell said.
She and the organization's more than 6,000 members fear state-funded homeschooling would ultimately take away their freedom, opening the door to regulation of their textbooks and curricula. Texas law currently considers homeschooling to be private education and imposes just a few basic regulations.
"If it's state-funded and state-approved materials, it's not homeschooling," Truesdell said.
She and about 10 others broke away from the Texas Homeschool Coalition when they realized the state's main homeschool group was vocally supporting Senate Bill 3. Jeremy Newman, the coalition's director of public policy, said the bill represents an extension of parental rights and protects homeschool students from burdensome government regulation.
Frenchon the other hand, is a member of the nonprofit Texas Association of School Boards, which views voucher-type legislation as a financial attack on public schools. French also does most of her organizing online, fielding emails and Facebook messages from people in her circle confused about the issue.
A board member of Valley View ISD 60 miles north of Dallas, she homeschooled her six children alongside Truesdell's kids for about 11 years. But after a divorce six years ago, she realized it would be difficult for a single parent to educate so many teenagers. She enrolled them in public schools, which meant she saw her homeschooling friend less. 
At a Halloween party at their church last October, Truesdell and French brought their kids, ran into each other, and reconnected. French had been sure her conservative friend would join many national homeschooling leaders in supporting private school choice. She avoided bringing up the topic with Truesdell, fearing a conflict. "Who likes to get into an argument?" French said.
Truesdell gingerly eased into the subject. They ended up chatting for two hours in the church, oblivious for the moment that their children were ready to head home.
"We just found it interesting that on such a divisive topic, a homeschooler and a public schooler actually did agree on this issue," Truesdell said.

Few choices in rural areas

Even if the two friends wanted to use state money for private school tuition as Unlikely allies: some homeschoolers fighting to kill school choice bill | The Texas Tribune:

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