Gov. Greg Abbott has unveiled the list of items he wants legislators to consider in a special session this month, including Education Freedom, which the Governor defines as “legislation providing education savings accounts for all Texas schoolchildren.”
Education savings accounts (ESAs) are better known as vouchers, which allow students to attend private or home schools with taxpayer dollars. A strong bipartisan coalition of legislators who support ALL Texas students and Texas teachers has pushed backed against vouchers in Texas for many years, including in the regular legislative session that ended in May.
“The Governor seems determined to hurt all Texas students, parents and teachers by holding badly needed financial resources hostage until he gets his own voucher program,” said HD Chambers, Executive Director of the Texas School Alliance, which represents 45 of the largest school districts in Texas. “By prioritizing the idea of subsidizing private-school education with taxpayer dollars over the necessary funding to educate 5.3 million Texas students, Governor Abbott has intentionally chosen to harm all public education students, reduce accountability, and pull needed dollars out of public schools.”
ESA and voucher programs have a history of not improving overall student performance and outcomes in other states. Furthermore, the cost of voucher programs often quickly balloons well beyond original estimates, while vouchers tend to end up in the hands of families already attending private school.
“School districts have no evidence-based reason to support vouchers in any form,” Chambers said. “The politics of vouchers in Texas has blinded our Governor and some state leaders to the point that they seem willing to sacrifice the education of 5.3 million Texas students. Vouchers drain resources from the public schools that accept all students and redirect those dollars to private schools that get to choose which students they want to educate.”
Abbott made no mention of investing in public education in his special session pronouncement, despite the fact that the Texas Legislature has not increased the Basic Allotment since 2019. School districts have faced 17 percent inflation during that time, forcing them to pay more for fuel, utilities, supplies and other costs.
“The Governor’s agenda is silent on the real needs of public schools,” Chambers said. “Legislators should reject this latest effort to weaken Texas public schools with a voucher system and instead work on the very real challenges that public schools face. Those challenges are 1) adequately funding our public schools to address inflation, 2) paying teachers a salary that will incentivize high quality individuals into teaching and prevent teachers from leaving the teaching profession and 3) addressing an outdated and ineffective student assessment and accountability system.”