Bush Voucher Plan Fails to Get Vote in Texas Legislature

Church & State, July 1999 | Go to article overview

Bush Voucher Plan Fails to Get Vote in Texas Legislature


A school voucher plan backed by Texas Gov. George W. Bush failed after Democrats in the state Senate refused to let it come up for a vote.

Bush and his supporters in the legislature had hoped that vouchers would pass in Texas this year. But public opinion leaned anti-voucher, and many Democrats were galvanized by efforts by pro-voucher groups to pour money into the coffers of candidates who backed vouchers.

The Bush-backed proposal, sponsored by Sen. Teel Bivins (R-Amarillo), would have provided vouchers to students in six urban Texas counties where public schools are deemed "failing."

Partisan politics played a large role in the measure's defeat. One survey found that pro-voucher groups had channeled $5.2 million to pro-voucher candidates last November, most of them Republicans. In addition, San Antonio millionaire James Leininger personally distributed $1.8 million to pro-voucher groups and spent an additional half million lobbying through his group, Putting Children First.

But Leininger's organization may have made a tactical error in January 1998 when it sent a letter to out-of-state business leaders seeking funds to underwrite an effort to remove anti-voucher Democrats from office. The group, which had claimed to be non-partisan, lost much Democratic support. Bob Bullock, then lieutenant governor and the state's top-ranking Democrat, resigned as honorary chair of the organization.

In other news about school vouchers:

* Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge's voucher plan has failed yet again. Ridge had hoped to push his proposal through before the legislature recessed for the summer but failed. The House of Representatives adjourned June 17 without voting on it. …

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