November 2, 2023

Texas Clergy: Texas schools don’t need vouchers.

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Three Texas religious leaders say that Abbot’s voucher plan is not what schools need. Dr. Michael Evans, Re. Dr. Mary Spradlin, and Rabbi Brian Zimmerman wrote this op-ed for the Star-Telegram, and over 100 other clergy signaled their agreement.

We are Fort Worth- area clergy and advocates for public education, driven by our faith to support the well-being of our state’s children. Our belief in community responsibility to provide the best possible education for every child is unwavering. The sad truth, however, is that we are falling short of this commitment.

Across Texas, our schools grapple with underfunding, overcrowded classrooms and overworked teachers. Educators face numerous challenges, including the disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most are disheartened by the increasingly politicized environment that undermines their abilities and integrity without a factual basis.

Some argue that the main issue in public education is teachers promoting controversial ideologies, undermining traditional values and neglecting core subjects such as reading and math.

This is a false narrative. As pastors, many of us regularly convene with school leaders to assess students’ progress. Our teachers are driven to improve education for their kids in the classroom. Elementary teachers aim to help early readers move toward goals set by people with little understanding of the life of families who, for example, may have already had to move many times in their young child’s life.

The claim that “public schools are failing” is overly simplistic and diverts attention from our collective responsibility. We fail our kids when we buy into this hysteria — part of a national playbook determined to undermine public education. We fail our kids when we have a historic $32.7 billion state budget surplus but refuse to raise the basic allotment to fund schools.

We fail our kids when we blame school districts and teachers for campus ratings without speaking against a system that prioritizes one STAAR test score. We fail our kids when we refuse to acknowledge the correlation between poverty and school performance. We fail our kids when we buy into the claim that the best thing to do is to “pull kids out” of public schools.

Some argue that vouchers or education savings accounts, known as ESAs, would provide options for all students, but the numbers reveal otherwise. Texas has more than 347,000 kids in private schools and more than 5.5 million in public schools. An ESA allotment of $8,000 for a child from the projected $500 million the Legislature is considering would help only 57,500 students after administrative costs. The cost/benefit analysis of this plan doesn’t add up.

Read the full op-ed here. 

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