March 4, 2024

I’ve been trying to do my civic duty to be an informed citizen by either reading agendas and minutes from previous Glen Rose ISD school board info or listening to audio. Saw this on the agenda at one point, the information on Private School Vouchers. The link to the PDF is here, also putting up the picture from the site.

For me, what I care about as a taxpayer is that the schools are money goes for have “clear systems of academic and fiscal accountability in place”. Private schools do not have this but of course when parents decide to send their children to a private school, they are making a choice whether they are about accountability. The second point on this pic is that if public dollars are diverted, that it takes resources out of the classrooms, including pay for teachers and high quality academic programs. Also, there aren’t local school boards to provide accountability as there are for public schools. I don’t always agree with what I hear from elected officials but have been personally pretty pleased in listening to the audio from the school board meetings in January 2024 and would not like it if my tax dollars went to private schools where there would be no way to know what choices they were making. Also, if you take money away for public education, you are guaranteeing that it could go in quality and denying an egalitarian purpose to educate all children at least to a certain level. Here’s everything you need to know about school vouchers in Texas

“I think what’s kind of getting lost in all these debates is the idea of education as a public good and not a private good,” she said. “Vouchers really shift the concept of education to a private good that benefits the individual student or family. But education is a public good, meaning that it benefits not just individuals, but society as a whole.”

Texas Association of School Administrators

1.– Vouchers are expensive. We simply can’t afford to fund three types of school systems (traditional ISDs, charter schools, and private schools funded by vouchers) that follow three different sets of rules. The state has already chosen to spend billions of taxpayer dollars each year on charter schools. That money comes directly out of neighborhood public schools. Funding a third system will no doubt significantly weaken local community schools and existing charters. Texas is already near the bottom in the country in public school funding. The last thing our state needs to do is provide “welfare checks” to wealthy families to attend selective private schools, and that is exactly what has occurred in many states that have enacted vouchers. In Arizona, 75% of voucher applicants are children who were already attending private school.

2 – School choice is not parent choice. Too often we see charter schools that do not serve all children. In those cases, it is the school that does the choosing, not the parents. There are some charters that are mission-driven and strive to serve all children, and they should be commended; but many have become profit factories that serve only children who are easy and cheap to educate. They are underrepresented by children in special education, those experiencing poverty, and children with behavioral and emotional needs. By law, they are required to be open to all children, but in reality, some charters put up all kinds of barriers to keep “those kids” from enrolling. That does not serve the public good and it even hurts the reputation of mission-driven charters.

3 – Vouchers erode our democracy. Local community schools have elected leaders who are required to live in the district, be accountable to all taxpayers, provide full transparency and have accountability. If you don’t like their decisions, you can vote them out of office. If you want to encourage or discourage them from making a certain decision, you can speak at a board meeting. You can vote for or against tax increases and bond issues. You can even talk to them at church or at the grocery store or ball game. In other words, you have a lot of influence on how your taxes are spent. That is called democracy. Private schools are far removed from the electorate. Vouchers will tax everyone, but the average Texan will have no say on how their tax dollars are spent, what curriculum is used, whether certified teachers are hired, or what programs are offered. Private schools don’t have to have a grievance policy, follow the Open Meetings Act, or show transparency about anything. It is ironic to me that while we are talking about giving parents more rights, we are actually inhibiting their rights by funding schools that can pick and choose whom to serve and how they serve without any input from the public. And for those of us who do not have school-aged children anymore, we will be taxed but have no representation in these schools. Taxation without representation runs decidedly counter to American values.

Article 7, Section 1 of the Texas Constitution, says “The general diffusion of knowledge, being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.” The American dream cannot be outsourced to private schools and profiteers. If our state and nation are going to continue to thrive, we must not abandon our public schools and our democracy.

Suppose that you don’t think that the public schools have done very well by your own children. Is the answer to withdraw your child and take money that truly, at heart, benefits those who are more well off in this society that want to get some welfare to help them pay for the private school of their choice? Note that private schools can choose NOT to enroll a student, while public schools are for everyone. It is unfortunate that, for example, in the case of disabilities, parents who believe the public school is failing them have to fight against this. In one recent case, from 20223, TEA places Austin ISD under conservatorship because the district failed to comply with special education law. (This after a lawsuit filed in 2021). Now, it’s tiring to try to right perceived injustices on your own and requires fighting back to get your child’s education prioritized, but that’s what it takes in a whole lot of actions in life. I still do not believe that gutting the public school system is the answer. If a person wants to send his or her child to a private school, especially one with a religious bent, that should be a choice made with an individual’s budget in mind, choices that all of us make all time time, about how we choose to spend our money. And, when these parents have demanded fixes for their own children, it is accountability on the line.

If a student with a disability attends a public school, federal laws protect their legal rights so they have access to an appropriate education experience. In a private school, some federal laws that protect the rights of students with disabilities don’t apply. For example, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act does not apply. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is likely not to apply to private schools. At schools owned or controlled by religious organizations, these laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act don’t apply.

ESAs also divert limited state resources away from public schools that are already critically underfunded when it comes to special education services. In recent years, the special education population has significantly increased in Texas, but state funding has not kept pace with the need. In 2020-2021, the state allocated $4 billion for special education services, but local educational agencies spent $6.3 billion and had to use general funds to make up the $2.3 billion gap.

“Students with disabilities in Texas are required by law to have access to a quality education,” said Steven Aleman, senior policy specialist with DRTx. “Denying them access to their legal rights and diverting critical funds away from public schools will lead to poor student outcomes and a future for Texas that is less bright.”

I am not a Republican. I think you can tell that from this site, I disagree on most of the ideology of the Republican party BUT there are 2 people that are running for Texas Lege right now and one of them wants private school vouchers. I certainly would never vote for Helen Kerwin and definitely the reason she is running is because Greg Abbott wants revenge on DeWayne Burns because Burns prioritized public education and didn’t push the vouchers that Abbott received SIX MILLION DOLLARS PLUS for from some voucher guy in PA to push. (That tells me how corrupt Abbott is, money from an out of state person versus letting the TXLege play out with elected people that care about public education. Personally, I wish someone other than a Republican ran for governor so I could vote out this guy who encourages people to treat SCOTUS opinions like trash and also revs up secessionists. Blah.

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