The superintendents of Region 10 Education Service Center represent 80 public school districts varying greatly in size, demographics and socioeconomic status. Each has individual strengths and needs when planning for the future. Together, superintendents agree on this focused set of priorities entering the 2017 Legislative Session. This document represents what we believe are the critical priorities that face our districts and stand to beneﬁt the 812,000 plus students we serve each and every day.
The 80 public school districts of Region 10 stand firmly united in their opposition to vouchers of any form. Vouchers, thinly disguised as “Education Savings Accounts” by their supporters as a means of selling them to the public, are a sleight-of-hand scheme designed to take dollars away from underfunded public schools to allow parents to use state tax dollars to send their children to private, parochial and even home schools. It is unacceptable to give parents debit cards loaded with taxpayer money to pay for private or home schooling.
Vouchers do not create a “competitive marketplace.” True competition is based on an even playing field. Public and private schools play by a different set of rules. Here are a few examples:
- Private schools are NOT required to provide special education, bilingual education, free and reduced-price lunches, transportation and many other programs that public schools provide.
- Private schools are NOT required to participate in the state’s standardized testing system nor are their teachers required to hold certificates in the subjects they teach.
- Private schools are NOT required to meet state class-size mandates.
- Some private schools claim that they have waiting lists whereas neighborhood public schools are not permitted to do the same. Public schools must find space, usually in the form of temporary buildings such as portable classrooms, to accommodate all additional students.
- Public schools are required to provide equal access to education to all children, even those in the country without documentation, while private schools are not.
Consumer accountability is already alive and well in Texas schools. Both the era of accountability and access to data via the Internet provide more detailed information to parents than ever about performance and characteristics of their schools. Parents with the means to pay private school tuition are free to choose that option. Within public schools, parents may transfer their child to another public school in the same or a neighboring school district, or enroll their child in a public magnet school, school-to-work program, or an evening high school.
While taxpayer-funded vouchers might cover a portion of the cost of private school tuition, most parents would not be able to afford the likely additional costs beyond the amount of the voucher. Under this scheme, millions of dollars would be taken away from our already underfunded public schools.
WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN?
Public schools serve 94.5% of Texas children. Diverting taxpayer dollars from Texas public schools does nothing to help improve them and only assists the relatively small number of parents who choose to enroll their children in private academies or religious schools. State lawmakers should instead concentrate on fixing the state’s complex funding formula to improve schools for the vast majority of Texas students.
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