The Texas Senate’s vote near midnight Tuesday to approve a sweeping Education Savings Account (ESA) voucher bill has put critical funding for students and teachers in danger.
The Senate inserted the voucher language into House Bill 100, the only remaining comprehensive school finance bill that would increase the Basic Allotment, which is the core unit of funding that schools use to fund education and pay teachers. ESA vouchers, which use public dollars to pay for private and home schools with no accountability for how those schools use taxpayer dollars, have been resisted by the Texas House throughout this year’s legislative session, which ends Monday.
“Many believe the Texas Senate is offering a false choice between ESA vouchers and no new funding for classrooms throughout Texas,” said HD Chambers, Executive Director of the Texas School Alliance, which represents 45 of the largest school districts in Texas. “If the Senate was serious about giving schools the funding they need, they would not have made that funding contingent on the passage of vouchers. This seems to be a desperate and dangerous attempt by the Texas Senate to pass private-school vouchers at the risk of not providing any additional funds.”
Throughout 2023, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have pushed for an ESA voucher program, despite widespread concerns that taxpayer dollars should not be sent to private and home schools with no accountability for their use of those dollars. While some support the idea of parents having some form of school choice for their children, it is clear most taxpayers do not support their tax dollars being used to subsidize families to help pay for their students to attend a private school or home school.
“Governor Abbott has spent the entire legislative session trying to convince people that it is good Texas policy to use Texas taxpayer funds for private and homeschool education with absolutely no transparency or accountability for the students or the money. I have a fundamental difference of opinion with anyone who believes ESAs or vouchers are good and acceptable state policy. I believe the Governor is out of touch with the people of Texas and with a majority of the Texas House,” Chambers said. “ESAs will create a new expensive entitlement program for private-school students with funding that could be better used to improve security, pay teachers and help students in our public schools.”
If the Texas Legislature wanted to fund school districts at the simple rate of inflation since 2019, the Legislature would need to raise the Basic Allotment by $900 to account for 14.5 percent inflation over the past few years.
“We request that the Texas Senate not hold meaningful school funding as a hostage over taxpayer ESAs,” Chambers said. “We can have real funding increases for public education without private-school vouchers being included in the discussion if the Texas Senate follows the rational leadership of the Texas House.”