Toplines & Key Facts:
- SB 1 passed the Senate on Oct. 12, and is headed to a House committee
- Vouchers discriminate and siphon public tax dollars
- Same scheme killed repeatedly in 2023
Neighborhood schools are in danger this special session, with zombie voucher programs back from the dead. On October 12, Senate Bill 1 passed the first chamber and was referred to the Educational Opportunity & Enrichment House Committee.
Gov. Abbott will not approve public school funding, especially the delayed raise for teachers, until the legislature approves voucher programs, he says. This policy was addressed in the regular and previous two special sessions, failing in all instances.
Zombie Vouchers Back 🧟
No matter how they rebrand (voucher, education savings accounts, etc.) the law would provide families with taxpayer money to pay for private schooling. Under SB 1, this system would establish $500 million for the comptroller to disperse, and $8,000 would be distributed to each eligible child. This doesn’t begin to cover the average Texas private school tuition ($10,668).
“This is taxpayer money you’re talking about, and we lose that to a private sector with absolutely no fiscal accountability, and no academic accountability for how those students do.” —Chloe Latham Sikes, IDRA
Since public school funding is based on attendance, when voucher programs open, public schools have to sustain operations, but with fewer students and resulting funding. You can see how much your district stands to lose here. This legislation aims to defund public education and appease fewer than ten billionaires who invested millions in pro-voucher PACs.
Discriminatory Policy and “Priorities” Web of Deceit 🕸️
Voucher proponents argue that by privatizing, our state will have better access to quality education, citing underperforming public schools. They do not mention they are the ones defunding those same schools, nor the context behind the bill. In the wake of attacks on literacy and teaching through book bans, and queer students at risk of lawsuits for existing in bathrooms and sports fields, the eerie motives for this policy become clear based in a Christian nationalist agenda to segregate through private schools.
This policy is based in a history that authorized academies to avoid integration and litigation by letting parents separate children on the basis of race, class, and religion in private schools, which did not have to adjust admission standards or curriculum in the face of the civil rights movement. They had no incentive or obligation to provide inclusive, regulated, or equitable education for Texans, so they didn’t.
We know that marginalized groups will be excluded in these programs. For example, funding for disabled students, which is capped at 20% and no more, “prioritizes” them out of the 62,000 families. However, this amount does not equate to better conditions, services, or education. In fact, to be eligible, vouchers require parents waive their federal disability rights protections in accepting the program. Basically, private schools keep themselves private, ensuring they weed out any person or ideologies that don’t align with their own.
Regression is a Grave Mistake ⚰️
Overall, based on 13 ESA programs and 31 states, voucher programs have a detrimental impact on state education. First, they divert funding away from schools in need, while stealing more for themselves as they develop. Second, they’ve been shown to give money to families already at private schools, instead of the proposed marginalized communities. And third, their potential impact covers just over the number of students who join the public school system in a year. For the 2021-22 school year, 5,427,370 students were enrolled in Texas public schools, with an increase of 55,784 students, compared to the 62,000 families that would be serviced in voucher programs.
This policy is not the solution to education reform in Texas. A simple majority of 76 votes is needed to push the bill forward, and considering that rural Republicans and Democrats formed a coalition on the matter, odds aren’t likely. Barriers like location, fixed tuition, and institutionalized racism ensure that private schools will remain exclusive. But for now, Texans want our neighborhood schools to continue providing equal access, standardized measures of success, and community impact. All Halloween jokes aside, we cannot allow further decay of Texas public education.
“You’re either on the side of your constituents, the public school kids’ side, or you’re on the side of big billionaire donors.” —Patti Quinzi, Texas AFT
How to Help:
- Follow SB 1. You can view the bill’s text, and watch it go through stages here.
- Contact your Representative. Tell them to keep public dollars in public schools.
- Vote YES on Prop 9. Read our Progressive Voter Guide for more on the long overdue cost of living increase for Texas retired teachers.
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