We’re not buying what the governor is selling

March 3, 2023

Gov. Greg Abbott made a stop at a private school in Corsicana on Monday to sell us on education savings accounts (ESAs) and other voucher proposals that would provide taxpayer-funded entitlements to individuals for private school tuition and other education expenses. As Trustees, parents, and taxpayers, were not buying it.

He talked about parents having more choices regarding the education of their students, but ESAs give private schools the choice of whether to accept a child – not parents. Private schools are able to deny enrollment to students for many reasons, including the need for special education services, behavioral issues, or disciplinary history. In fact, in other states where vouchers have been enacted, between 75% and 90% of users were already in private schools with no public tax dollars to support them. ESAs don’t provide more choices for families; they just provide a refund for those who can already afford to attend private schools.

Gov. Abbott talked about the need to empower parents in the education process especially regarding viewing curriculum and instructional materials, but private schools are not truly accountable to parents. They’re not required to provide information on their budgets, curriculum, or instructional materials like public schools do. Nor are private schools run by publicly elected school board members who must gain the support of parents to even serve as a trustee. Instead, they are run by private boards of appointed members who are accountable only to themselves.

The materials at the event claimed that no public-school funds would be used to fund ESAs, but make no mistake: every dollar directed towards ESAs is funding that could otherwise be used for the benefit of public school students to improve special education services, increase the pool of qualified teachers, and boost literacy programs.

And speaking of funding, ESA programs always end up costing more than initially projected because most individuals using vouchers are already attending private schools. This creates a new draw on state funding that did not previously exist. In Arizona, for example, voucher supporters said the program would cost $30 million to operate, but the program cost jumped to $300 million shortly afterwards.

Texas parents currently have several options for how to educate their kids: public school districts, charter schools, district magnet schools, inter- and intra-district transfers, homeschools, online schools, private schools, etc. Creating a new state entitlement for those who have chosen to not avail themselves of a constitutionally mandated system of free public schools is akin to every other “as-seen-on-TV” product: full of empty promises and always ends up costing more than advertised.

Dr. Seth Brown, President

Cathy Branch, Vice President

Leah Dill Blackard, Secretary

Kamar Chambers

Brad Farmer

Barbara Kelley

Jamie Roman

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