(AUSTIN) — The Texas School Alliance, which represents 45 of the largest school districts in the state, urges legislators to oppose Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) that would send public dollars to private schools. Legislators should instead invest in public schools that educate all students within a framework that provides transparency and accountability for parents and taxpayers.

TSA Executive Director HD Chambers testified Monday against the latest version of Senate Bill 8, which would provide taxpayer-funded ESA vouchers to hundreds of thousands of students so they could attend private or home schools.

“Senate Bill 8 sends public dollars to private schools without any mechanism for parents or the public to know whether those schools are doing a good job,” Chambers said. “We have seen in other states that these types of bills lead to the creation of low-quality private schools that pop up quickly to absorb taxpayer subsidies in the form of an ESA. Arizona, Ohio and other states have also proven that the cost of taxpayer-funded vouchers tends to balloon well beyond original estimates.”

Sunday night, Gov. Greg Abbott called the House version of SB 8 insufficient because it is largely limited to students who need special education services or attend the state’s lowest-rated schools. Gov. Abbott voiced his preference for the ESA plan already passed by the Texas Senate, which would make ESA vouchers accessible to a much larger group of students — at a much higher cost to Texas taxpayers.

“A very bad bill is apparently not bad enough for Governor Abbott,” said Texas School Alliance President Brian Woods. “All year, Governor Abbott has used his platform to attack public school teachers with gross mischaracterizations of their work and motives. Now he is threatening to call a special session if the Legislature does not begin to dismantle public education in Texas. Governor Abbott has chosen to undermine our public schools instead of investing in them.”

The push for ESA vouchers in the Legislature comes despite the fact that, according to several metrics, Texas ranks in the bottom 10 states for per-student funding. The state also has a historic budget surplus of more than $30 billion.

“There is room for improvement in the way that Texas educates its students — especially students who are enrolled in special education,” Chambers said. “The most efficient way for Texas to improve outcomes is to make real investments in the local public schools that serve every Texas community. We urge Governor Abbott and legislators to focus on supporting public schools, which accept all students and are accountable to all taxpayers.”