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You know, there’s something … immoral about abandoning your own judgment … We just can’t let this get out of hand. And we’re gonna do whatever we have to do to make this come out right.” —John F. Kennedy in the movie “JFK”

In every state that uses taxpayer money to subsidize private school education for a select group of children, there has been a significant, sometimes devastating, impact on public schools. The future of our state’s economy and democracy depends on the success of our public schools, so the future of our state truly hangs in the balance during this special session on vouchers. Texas simply can’t afford to fund three different types of school systems (traditional public, charters and private) with three different sets of rules.

The thing is, most legislators in both parties agree. Some of them have taken courageous votes against vouchers in spite of enormous pressures. Others, who privately share their grave concerns about vouchers, have voted in favor of them in spite of their misgivings. They have abandoned their own judgment.

Public schools are starving for funding right now. Our students, teachers and schools need financial support, especially since we are coming out of a pandemic and facing a federal funding cliff. Yet a promise of short-term funding in exchange for a voucher program that will siphon more and more funds away from public schools will only make it worse. It is cynical politics at its worst when critical school funding for more than 5.4 million students is held hostage to achieve a pet project for a few. I fear for the future of our state.

During this third called special session of the year, one in which private school vouchers is the only educational issue called (at least at the time of this writing), state educational leaders and supporters should reach out and say thanks to those legislators who have not abandoned their own judgment. They support children. They support teachers. And they need our encouragement so they can continue to stand strong and vote according to the will of their local communities. To those who would permanently harm our public schools, it is time to say “no.” We must let them all know how we feel by calling, writing or visiting in person.

In the movie “JFK,” Kennedy says the words printed above when he was under enormous pressure. He was playing a game of chicken with the Russians over the Bay of Pigs, and in the end, he did not flinch. He followed his own judgment, knowing that history would judge him and him only — not his advisors and not his adversaries.

Let’s pray that our leaders will make the right moral decision and protect our public schools, which are critical to the future of our children, communities, state and nation … if for no other reason than they should want to be on the right side of history.

-TASA Executive Director Kevin Brown, Ed.D.