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Education Committee Report Reveals Dueling Opinions On Vouchers

The rumors are true. The House Select Committee on Education Opportunity and Enrichment did include talk of “school choice” in their report.

The 37-page report released Friday afternoon included a set of recommendations aimed at incorporating voucher-like legislation in the looming special session focused on Education. 

According to the report, the Committee took into account a variety of perspectives presented by advocates from both public and private schools.

Supporters of education savings accounts (ESAs) highlighted the benefits of increased competition in education. They emphasized the potential for ESAs to offer alternatives for students who might struggle with private school expenses. However, opponents of ESAs expressed worries about diverting funds from public schools to private institutions. They also raised concerns about the complexity of monitoring taxpayer funds and the potential lack of oversight from Texas policymakers.

To create the report, legislators analyzed student outcomes in states where ESAs or vouchers have been implemented. They also considered the financial challenges that public schools face, which might impact their capacity for innovation.

The two main takeaways from the report were Parental Choice Programs with Accountability and a Comptroller-Administered Scholarship Fund.

Firstly, the emphasis on Parental Choice Programs with Accountability underscores the importance of establishing transparent criteria and guidelines for any potential parental choice program. With a focus on prioritizing students with the greatest needs, the committee aims to ensure that participants in such programs derive substantial academic benefits. Importantly, the introduction of robust safeguards and fiscal responsibility measures will ensure the preservation of educational quality. Funding for these programs will be derived from suitable sources, maintaining the program’s credibility and integrity.

Secondly, the concept of a Comptroller-Administered Scholarship Fund would empower the Comptroller to select a Certified Educational Assistance Organization, entrusted with managing a fund designed to offer scholarships and financial support for education-related expenses. Significantly, this fund will be financed entirely by contributions from the private sector, with no involvement of state funds.

Both of these recommendations address the main concerns of advocates and educators: taxpayer-funded vouchers with no accountability. But it remains to be seen if it would fly with Gov. Greg Abbott who during the 88th regular legislative session wanted a more drastic school choice package. 

This is most likely an attempt from legislators to reach a common ground, in hopes of teacher pay raise and an increment in the basic allotment – both of which died in the regular legislative session.

However, critics are concerned this could just be the way pro-voucher advocates get a foot in the door. They will continue to “move the goal post” until funding for public education is all dried up.

“Until public funding for education is completely gone, the backers of this stuff will not stop,” Charles Siler, former pro-voucher lobbyist for Goldwater Institute in Arizona and the co-founder of Agave Strategies, a political consulting firm, told RA News.

“We already have an incredibly expensive voucher program in Arizona and now they’re just talking about how much more money they can award per student – the ratchet will always continue.”

At the end of the report, there are multiple comments from committee members in the form of letters. One by Rep. Harold Dutton specifically objects to a voucher program.

“While I am generally in agreement with the Committee’s recommendations, I must exclude support for any recommendations with underlying efforts to create a voucher system in Texas’ public schools.”

The committee was tasked with presenting the initial report on potential alternatives for enhancing educational opportunities for students in grades K-12, which also included: revamping special education funding, recommendations on school finance/teacher pay calls for increasing the Basic Allotment and recommendations on school accountability including reducing high stakes testing.

Jovanka Palacios
Jovanka Palacios
Jovanka Palacios, a Mexican-American Politics Reporter and Managing Editor at RA's Gun Violence Watch, unveils the Capitol's inner workings. Focused on Public Education and Gun Policies, she passionately advocates for informed dialogue, delivering concise, impactful insights into the intricate political landscape.


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