The school voucher program is not suitable for education in Texas

Gov. Greg Abbott is advocating for a voucher program in the name of parental choice, but every Texan should question that because of the potential negative impact vouchers have on students and the state’s public school system. School vouchers are relatively simple – they are taxpayer-funded government grants that parents use to pay for private school tuition, although tuition and transportation costs at many private schools exceed the voucher. Families must pay the difference.

When a family uses a voucher, public school districts lose their funding. Education savings accounts and tax credit scholarships are less traditional approaches to vouchers, but they still take money away from public schools.

With less money, districts are forced to cut popular programs such as bilingual education, STEM initiatives and job training. These cuts reduce program and program offerings and disproportionately impact low-income communities who may not be able to afford private school tuition and transportation, even with a voucher.

Private schools are not held to the same level of accountability as public schools. And they are not legally bound to provide equitable access and quality services to students with disabilities. These simple facts are concerning, but it gets worse.

School checks have been studied for decades in cities like Milwaukee, New York and Toledo. Most studies find little or no statistical impact on the success of students receiving vouchers. In fact, four recent studies in Louisiana, Indiana, Ohio, and the District of Columbia found that, on average, students attending private schools with vouchers performed worse on tests than their similar peers in public schools. .

David DeMathews, University of Texas at Austin.

In Arizona, a voucher program was sold as a policy to help low-income families. In practice, vouchers were mainly used in the better performing neighborhoods by wealthy parents. Arizona House Minority Leader Eric Meyer said the state’s voucher program “essentially gives the wealthy a discount at a private school.” He added that the lack of money to cover transportation and additional school fees makes it difficult for families with fewer resources to use the voucher scheme.

Texans should keep that in mind.

Texans should also keep in mind that our state already ranks among the worst for public school funding and has been cited by the US Department of Education for illegally cutting special education funding. When vouchers are implemented, more money will flow out of the public education system.

Consider Cleveland ISD in Liberty County outside of Houston, which serves about 9,000 students at 11 schools. The district’s total budget was approximately $130 million for the 2021-22 school year, including nearly $100 million to cover staff salaries, travel and transportation costs, and maintenance and operation of the facilities.

If some families currently attending Cleveland ISD were to use a voucher to attend private schools, the most likely outcome is that their children would receive a substandard education. Meanwhile, the loss of 10 or 20 students would require Cleveland ISD to cut one to two staff members, such as a teacher or school nurse.

Rural Texas schools like those at Cleveland ISD aren’t just places kids go to school. They also serve as community centers, host important events and gatherings, and provide access to healthcare providers and counseling given the state’s long-term failure to ensure rural communities have access to hospitals and to mental health services.

Policy makers should not disrupt the public education system given the constitutional obligation of the state to “make appropriate provision for the support and maintenance of an effective system of free public schools”. Withdrawing money from the public school system amid a global pandemic that has disrupted learning and triggered a massive teacher shortage is even more illogical. Let’s also not forget the significant school security concerns and security infrastructure issues brought to light by the recent school shooting in Uvalde.

David Knight

Vouchers in Texas are a very bad idea. We should invest in our public schools and ensure that each school has adequate resources, high-quality teaching staff, and offers innovative educational programs that prepare the next generation of Texans for post-secondary success. We shouldn’t have a program that does the opposite.

David DeMatthews is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Texas at Austin. David S. Knight is Assistant Professor of Education Finance and Policy at the University of Washington.

Ryan H. Bowman