With a $32 billion surplus going into the 88th Texas Legislature, most educators and legislators saw the session as a long-overdue opportunity to make a genuine investment in our 5.4 million Texas public school students.
The House had a chance to pass a bill that would have provided additional per-pupil funding, but voucher proponents derailed the bill. Rather than compromise our neighborhood schools, the Texas House stood firm against vouchers, voting against them twice.
Whether they are called vouchers, education savings accounts, or tax credit scholarships, they undermine our public school system, cost taxpayers more money with zero accountability or transparency, and deepen inequities. To add insult to injury, numerous credible studies have found that voucher programs do not improve student outcomes.
Public money belongs in public schools.
Rep. Armando Walle — Chair, Texas Legislative Study Group
We must hold the line against vouchers. Here’s why:
Vouchers Haven’t Improved Student Achievement
We want the best for our Texas students — but vouchers are not the answer. Even with different voucher programs, states, student populations, and varying methodologies, studies examining the effectiveness of vouchers on student achievement show that they have either comparable or worse student outcomes than public schools.
- A 2019 study by the University of Arkansas found that Louisiana students using vouchers to attend private schools “performed noticeably worse on state assessments than their [public school] control group counterparts after four years.”
- A 2019 Institute for Education Sciences study found that the Washington, D.C. voucher program had no statistically significant effect on student achievement in reading or math after three years.
- A 2018 evaluation by the University of Alabama found that Alabama’s voucher program was not associated with significant improvement on standardized test scores.
- A 2018 University of California Civil Rights Project study found that students in Indiana’s voucher program lost an average of 3-4 percentile points in math compared to their public school counterparts. After four years in private schools, voucher students showed improvement but only performed equally to public school students.
- A 2017 Brookings Institution report examined voucher programs in the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Indiana, and Ohio, and found that, on average, students attending private schools with vouchers did less well on tests than their peers in public schools.
- A 2017 Economic Policy Institute study analyzed 25 years of voucher research and found that voucher programs do not significantly improve test scores.
Vouchers will divert funds from public schools. In states with vouchers costs ballooned while per-pupil funding dropped.
- A report by Public Funds Public Schools, a Southern Poverty Law Center project, looked at seven states with long-standing voucher programs from fiscal years 2008 to 2019.
- All seven states saw substantial increases in voucher program funding, while, at the same time, six states decreased or froze per-pupil funding in public schools, even as enrollment increased.
|270 percent increase in voucher program funding,
5.7 percent decrease in per-pupil spending for public education
|313 percent increase in voucher program funding,
12 percent decrease in per-pupil spending for public education
|883 percent increase in voucher program funding,
1.9 percent decrease in per-pupil spending for public education
|796 percent increase in voucher program funding,
1.5 percent decrease in per-pupil spending for public education
|154 percent increase in voucher program funding,
6.3 percent decrease in per-pupil spending for public education
|119 percent increase in voucher program funding,
Froze per-pupil spending for public education
|The only state to buck the trend with increased funding for its voucher program by 416 percent and increased per-pupil spending for public education by 14.2 percent.
- One of the reasons why voucher programs balloon state budgets are because they are entirely new costs to the state. The students using vouchers often were not attending public school beforehand; therefore, there are no existing state funds to “follow the student.”
Vouchers would force taxpayers in many Texas communities to pay for a program they can’t use and subsidize private tuition for families that can already afford it.
- The national average tuition for private schools is over $12,000, and this doesn’t include other costs such as transportation or meals.
- Rural communities often don’t have enough private schools around for so-called “school choice” programs to work.
- Urban areas are also known to suffer from “choice deserts.”
Texans aren’t asking for vouchers.
- Texans already have a lot of “school choice,” and school choice supporters are not all voucher supporters.
- Consider all the choices available now: open-enrollment public schools, early college high schools, STEM programs, career and technical programs, charter schools, and more.
- Voters appear to support their current choices. Nearly 90% of Texas parents said they were content with the state’s public school system, according to the Charles Butt Foundation 2023 Texas Education Poll.
- 89% percent of Texas parents also support increased state funding for K-12 public schools.
- A Perception Insight poll for the Texas Association of School Boards, reveals a downward trend in support for vouchers. When asked about using public taxpayer dollars for private or religious schools, only 32% of respondents said that vouchers are important, the lowest-ranking issue in the poll.
Billionaires — not Texans — are pushing the voucher scam.
- West Texas “pro-voucher” billionaires Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks have provided millions in political contributions to Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick, as well as other “conservative” organizations and PACs.
- Dunn and Wilks are wielding their political influence to attempt to replace Texas public schools with a taxpayer-funded system of Christian-based private schools.
- Michael Quinn Sullivan of Empower Texans, an organization funded by Dunn and Wilks, showcased the pro-voucher movement’s disregard towards educators when he said, “A reminder that ‘public education’ is just a babysitting service offered at the convenience of the government employees. Public education in Texas is about employing otherwise unemployable adults, not educating kids.”
Students give up federal and state protections against discrimination when accepting vouchers.
- Early vouchers were explicitly discriminatory — they emerged as a tool to combat public school integration after the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling on Brown v. Board of Education. Southern states adopted vouchers to allow white students to leave desegregated public schools.
- Even today, some data suggests that voucher programs exacerbate racial segregation.
- Private schools do not have to follow the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that protect students with disabilities. Federal disability funding is not available to private schools.
- Private schools do not have to comply with other federal anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ students and students in other vulnerable groups, such as English language learners.
A Second Chance to Work Together for Public Education
Although additional per-pupil funding was not available at the start of the current school year, the state budget includes roughly $4.5 billion of dedicated public education funding. On top of that, there is $18.2 billion of unspent general revenue, of which several billion can be spent without busting the lowest spending limit. Instead of engaging in culture wars, the special session provides the legislature an opportunity to work together on behalf of students, teachers, and parents in support of public schools that serve as the core of communities large and small in every part of our great state. We must use any and all available funds to invest in our neighborhood schools.