Statement from Linda Bridges, Texas AFT president:
Over the past couple of years Texans have watched the destruction wrought by $5.4 billion in cuts to Texas public education and the resulting massive layoffs of teachers, swollen class sizes, and loss of services needed to help struggling students achieve. Now we have another assault on our schoolchildren brewing in the form of private-school vouchers.
Let’s be clear about the tax-credit voucher mechanism proposed by Sen. Dan Patrick today, even though many specifics are still lacking: Every dollar credited to a taxpayer
for contributions to a private-school scholarship program is a dollar diverted from the stream of tax revenue that our public schools depend upon to deliver educational services for five million Texas students. This is a state-funded subsidy for private schools at the expense of public schools–a voucher by another name.
The track record of voucher programs around the country should condemn this idea to the scrap heap. An overwhelming amount of research has consistently demonstrated that vouchers do not improve student achievement. Substantial research also shows that vouchers provide no cost savings to state governments, and in fact result in greater government bureaucracy and inefficiency.
Those not convinced by the research and history of voucher failures across the nation must
still face the fundamental problem with vouchers–using public dollars for private schools that aren’t accountable to taxpayers and have no obligation to serve all students.
When you also consider that the amount of money proposed for vouchers wouldn’t actually come close to covering the cost of many private schools’ tuition, it’s plain to
see—and research on existing voucher systems shows—that the majority of those who would use vouchers are from upper-middle-income families. Vouchers end up adding
another layer of socioeconomic segregation to an already inequitable school-finance system that allows per-pupil funding to vary by thousands of dollars between school districts.
We do have school choice now, in the form of magnet schools, in-district charter schools,
transfers and other opportunities to ensure there’s a public school that’s a good fit for each student. Unfortunately, those choices and the opportunities for innovation in public schools erode with every swing of the budget axe that leaves schools fighting to provide even the basics in education.
I’ve learned not to question motives without knowing the true intent of those pushing for
vouchers, but I’m fine with questioning the logic behind their agenda. Hurting a public education system designed to be a democratic foundation of our communities—one that serves all Texas children—is a faulty way of addressing inequities. We have the ability to ensure a quality public education, regardless of your zip code, if we fix the current system and fund our schools at the level needed to increase achievement.
Voucher proposals have never succeeded in Texas, not just because of opposition from the public school districts, which rightfully fear the resulting loss of funding. Vouchers have failed because public opinion has long been opposed to the notion that we abandon our obligation to our neighborhood schools in favor of supporting a separate system of public funding to private schools.
We know what works: equitable funding for our schools, investment in services proven to
increase achievement, smaller class sizes, addressing poverty as a roadblock to learning, and programs to enhance quality teaching. And we know what doesn’t work, segregating our students further into the haves and have-nots by taking public money and putting it into private schools.