A few days ago I talked about Florida’s gun laws and how they’re about to add to a gun law that has already caused controversy.
Today, I’d like to address what’s been taking place in Texas. On Thursday, the Senate Education Committee passed a school choice legislation in a 7-3 vote.
According to the Texas Tribune, “the bill would create two public programs subsidizing private school tuition and homeschooling expenses.”
The first program would create education savings accounts (ESAs), which would give parents online accounts, of a certain amount of money provided by the state, to pay for private school tuition or homeschooling expenses.
The second program is a tax credit scholarship. This would allow businesses to receive credits against their insurance premium taxes if they contribute to approved scholarship organizations.
Proponents of the bill believe that parents have the right to choose where to send their children and what their children learned. State Sen. Van Taylor, who voted in favor of the bill, said that the bill would save state money because public schools would be relieved of the student growth that they’ve seen each year.
“There actually will be more money per child in the public education system in Texas,” State Sen. Van Taylor said. “Slowing the rate of growth is actually operationally advantageous to the districts I represent.”
myStatesman, an Austin newspaper, gave scenarios of how much money families would receive. A family of four whose income is at least $90,000 would receive about $5,400 per year and a family who makes less that amount would receive $6,800. Students with disabilities, regardless of income, would receive $8,200.
Students who come from low-income homes could also qualify for tax credit scholarships to use towards private school tuition; businesses that donate to the scholarship fund would receive a tax credit which would be capped at $100 million per year from the state.
However, this bill has also created controversy. The Texas Tribune spoke with Guy Sconzo, the executive director of the Fast Growth School Coalition, a group of 75 school districts seeing the quickest enrollment growth in Texas. “Children don’t leave in perfect groups of 22 or 25, allowing a district to then need one less teacher. Even if they left in those groups, all of the other costs to operate a facility and run a quality school don’t go away.”
Many public education advocates have been urging the Legislature to prioritize the public school system by allocating equal amounts of money throughout schools.
Ann Beeson, the executive director of the left-leaning policy group Center for Public Policy Priorities, also pointed out the flaws of this bill. “SB3’s (a name for the bill) voucher scheme will drain tax dollars from public education, without helping families most in need. Instead the Legislature should focus on the real issue – remodeling Texas’ outdated school finance system to ensure all Texas students can get a quality public education, no matter where they live or what their background.”