Saturday, January 24, 2015

Campbell wants to give discounts to wealthy parents

State Senator Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) his introduced a bill she claims is aimed at addressing inadequate funding of public education in Texas by allowing state funds to pay $3,500 in tuition to private schools. One of the several problems with this concept, as documented in a study of a similar program in Minnesota, is that children from families are financially unable to take advantage of such a program even though they are the students most likely to attend poor performing schools. Low performing schools and districts are usually in low income areas where there isn’t a sufficient tax base to adequately fund public education needs. So parents are usually too poor to pay the difference between the state funds and the annual $10,000 to $25,000 tuition private schools charge.

This bill is really about providing a discount to parents already wealthy enough to send their children to private schools. Once enough better off parents are sending their children to private schools they may no longer care about the quality of public education or be willing to pay the necessary taxes to fund it.

All Campbell’s bill really does is broaden the gulf between the haves and the have nots.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Religious Freedom Day - Letter to the Editor

The Texas legislature will soon be in session and several ostensible “religious freedom” bills have already been submitted including one from Senator Donna Campbell (SD 25). Unfortunately neither Campbell nor her colleagues seem to understand the intent of our constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom. January 16 is Religious Freedom Day commemorating the enactment of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1786 and an opportunity to remind her and others what “religious freedom” really means.

At the time of the Revolution religious freedom was not guaranteed by any government then existent. Most of the colonies had officially established religions and citizens were expected to attend that church and pay taxes supporting that church.

Before the U.S. Constitution was drafted, future presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison worked to free Virginia from its official state church, the Anglican Church. Jefferson wrote the bill and Madison pushed its passage as a member of the state legislature.

Shortly after the bills passage Madison went to Philadelphia and became the primary author of the U.S Constitution and the First Amendment. During the lengthy debates between delegates to the constitutional convention several attempts were made to include statements claiming the United States to be a Christian nation but they were soundly rebuffed each time.

There only two mentions of religion in our constitution, both in the negative. Article VI prohibits a religious test in order to hold public office and the First Amendment bars laws “respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.