October 21, 2023
Brian Lopez:Texas’ main voucher bill seeks to avoid other states’ mistakes but keeps ideas that attracted criticism
Brian Lopez is the education reporter for the Texas Tribune. He takes a look at how Texas voucher fans keep repeating other states’ mistakes. They tried so hard to avoid pitfalls of other voucher programs.
In other areas, Texas repeated ideas that garnered criticism in other states. Critics across the country point out that private schools receiving state funds through existing voucher programs aren’t required to show that students are succeeding academically, like public schools are. And like in other states, voucher supporters in Texas say that’s by design. Sen. Brandon Creighton, a Republican from Conroe and SB 1’s author, has argued that the market will weed out underperforming private schools.
Those voucher programs in other states also sparked vigorous debates, came with the same promises and faced similar concerns, providing a window into the impact they might have in Texas once enacted. The Arizona program, for instance, confirmed critics’ concerns that it would require increasingly larger amounts of funding as it grew — just like opponents in Texas fear.
Florida also shows problems.
In Florida, flat screen TVs, paddleboards and entry to Disney are approved educational expenses. Critics there say that’s not how taxpayer money should be used; defenders of the program say education has evolved and those can be justified expenses.
Who uses the funds is also a concern for those against education savings accounts. In Arizona, as in Texas, the program was promoted as a way for low-income families who might feel confined within the public education system and want to explore other educational options for their children. But after the program expanded, the Arizona education department found that 75% of those in the program were not previously enrolled in public school, meaning they were already home-schooling, enrolled at a private school or had never entered the school system.
The Grand Canyon Institute, a non-partisan think tank, echoed those findings and estimated that 45% of applicants were among the wealthiest quartile of students in the state.
Read the full piece here.