Sen. Don Huffines shouts at kids during a private school voucher question session
With Betsy DeVos’ nomination to Secretary of Education, we are hearing more and more about school vouchers, charter schools, and private schools. A Texas Senator was answering questions about private school vouchers this week, when he got condescending and downright combative with students.
Yesterday was PTA Rally Day in Austin, Texas. A group of students visited State Senator Don Huffines to ask him questions about education. One of the mothers attending the talk explained to Dallas News that the students were given articles to review about private school vouchers before meeting with the senator. They reviewed them, and presented him with the questions they had.
These were seventh and eight graders. Watch how Senator Huffines responds to them.
Critics of the voucher program Huffines is pushing say the amount of the vouchers will not be large enough to actually help students attend some costly schools that will be benefiting from taxpayer dollars. One student specifically asked that question, with more grace and decorum than her adult senator could muster up.
The student asked, “Excuse me Senator, I don’t mean to offend you but you are speaking on behalf of the students, and as a student of public education I disagree with this completely. I’ve gone to a private school before…with these vouchers, what are you going to get — $5000 a year? The majority of these private schools are $5000 a semester. How are lower income families supposed to pay for the rest of the school year?” Huffines, with a very combative and condescending tone answers, “Oh, so it doesn’t pay for all their education. It doesn’t pay for all their education, does it? The $5000 won’t pay for it, right? So you’re saying since we’re not giving them enough money to pay for all their education, screw ’em they can’t go to private school! Do you want me to give them $15,000? Is that what you want? So they can all go to Hockaday or St. Mark’s? That’s the most selfish thing I’ve ever heard.”
What? Private school vouchers will not work if a family can’t afford to make up the difference, but as usual, there are some politicians that don’t care that lower income students will always be left behind on measures like this.
“What are you scared of,” he shouts. “What are all y’all scared of?” One parent says, “That money you’re sending to private schools should be used to enhance public schools.” Huffines responds, “What makes you think it isn’t? What makes you think it’s your money? It’s the businesses. It’s their money. Sixty-two percent of all property tax is paid by business.”
Okay, so by this reasoning the taxes that homeowners pay mean nothing because they don’t add up to as much as businesses in the area? Tell that to parents paying huge property taxes to live in an area with good schools.
Matt Langston, a spokesman for Huffines, compared the meeting to an ambush. “Where other politicians might have run, Don Huffines stayed and endured the ambush-style attack, then calmly answered more questions for 15 more minutes, including questions from students.” Well, that is his job. To answer to the people who pay his salary — the taxpayers. And in this case, students of taxpayers. Should we give the guy a medal for not running from a room of middle-schoolers?
Later in the day, Rep. Jason Villalba of Dallas tweeted a photo of himself with the group of kids who had been in the talk and said Huffines “ruined their day.”
When our eighth graders have more maturity and grace than our state senators, it’s time to revisit who we’re all voting for.
Senator Huffines, you should be ashamed of yourself.
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