Proposals in Austin could give parents thousands to cover the costs of private education. But opponents fear it won’t actually give options, and it will only help families already enrolled in private schools.
TEXAS SENATE BILL GIVES PARENTS $10,000 FOR PRIVATE EDUCATION
When it comes to where to send their children to school, some parents want more options.
“Education for my kid matters a lot,” parent Tamyralynn Woods said.
One option could soon be to give parents vouchers that would go to cover the costs of private schools.
“It would help a lot,” parent Catania Caesar explained. “It would help me do a lot for my child. It would help me out a lot to get him started, first of all.”
In Austin, private school vouchers are expected to be a topic of debate in this session, with one of the bills comes from Sen. Mayes Middleton, who represents the Galveston area.
“We’re putting more tools in the hands of Texas parents to decide what is best for their child because, at the end of the day, children belong to their parents,” Middleton said.
Middleton’s bill gives parents $10,000 per student. This is money that can be used for tuition, technology, and transportation expenses.
“Once money follows the child, you see a lot of innovations and programs that happen like hybrid-home schooling, which is basically a two-day a week brick and mortar, three-day week home-school which are usually run out of old churches,” Middleton explained.
VOUCHERS GIVE OPTIONS, BUT OPPONENTS WORRY IT MAY NOT PROVIDE PARENTS WITH MORE CHOICES
The idea has the approval of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. However, it’s failed in the past as rural Republicans and Democrats have defeated it. This time, they’re ready again.
“What happens is that people sending their kids to private schools now will simply be getting the state to help them send them there, but I suspect if we did that, private schools will raise their tuition,” State Rep. Harold Dutton explained.
Others aren’t sure this gives parents more options. Even with a voucher, it may be not enough to cover costs.
“Just because you’re offered a voucher, $10,000, whatever the amount is, that doesn’t automatically get you admitted into that private school,” State Rep. Armando Walle said.
Democrats also fear this means money will be taken from public schools. Republicans say about 70% would go to private education. However, public schools would still get the remaining amount. Advocacy group, Children at Risk, says private school may not be the better option because of accountability.
“Now, if we have these schools and they’re private, we can’t shut them down,” Children at Risk activist, Dr. Bob Sanborn, explained. “What you’re doing is draining the system of these public education dollars to schools that are going to be questionable at best.”
PRIVATE SCHOOLS SUPPORT THE IDEA THAT COST IS WHY SOME FAMILIES DON’T EXPLORE THE OPTION
Private school leaders see it differently. At Xavier Academy in Houston, officials said private options are great alternatives to public schools.
“Each private school has a reason for their existence,” Xavier Academy founder, Richard Delacuadar, said. “We target sometimes specific populations. If we have a proven track record where we can succeed, I think that’s something we can offer that other schools cannot.”
It’s an option private school leaders say many students can’t even explore because of money.
“Some parents don’t even consider the option,” Delacuadar explained. “They just find out, what is your tuition and they see a number, and that’s it. The process stops there.”
This is why Republicans say they’re pushing the bill this session: to give parents more choices, while still providing public schools will funding. A debate is sure to take center stage in this session.
“This bill empowers parents, and the right thing to do is put tools in the hands of parents when deciding for themselves,” Middleton said.
“Vouchers are a fundamental threat to our democracy because it undermines the ability to fund our public schools,” Walle explained.
If passed, the bill from the senate would take effect this September. However, parents would have access to the money until 2024.
Investigators asked about accountability. We’re told there will be systems set up to catch fraud and make sure it’s truly being used for educational purposes.