The latest session of the Texas Legislature up and running, and there are a lot of critical education issues on the table.
The G.O.P. majority is doing its best to ram through an extreme—and dangerous—right-wing agenda that hurts our schools, our students, and the future of our state.
One key issue is vouchers. The right is hiding its plan to starve our public schools of critically needed funding by calling this initiative “School Choice.”
“Hijacking” would be a better word. The Legislature tried this in 2021 and failed. But they’re trying again.
Here’s how it works: Take you kids out of public school. Enroll them in a private school. Get a $10,000 credit from the state to help pay for private-school tuition. That’s about what it costs each year to educate a Texas public school student. Texas public school systems can then kiss that money goodbye.
Texas already spends less than most other states on public education. And while the Texas population has been growing astronomically, the state’s share of education spending hasn’t nearly kept pace—it’s grown only slightly.
At the same time—and this is important—the share of school costs shouldered by local taxpayers has mushroomed by about 50% over the last five years. And we all know how painful it is to write that property tax check at the end of each year. With more money diverted away from schools, we can expect that annual check to pinch even more.
And it’s not like everybody can take advantage of those $10,000 credits. Unlike public schools, private schools aren’t required to take just any student who wants to enroll. They can pretty much pick and choose. And, generally, that $10,000 tuition credit won’t cover the full cost of private school tuition or transportation. So the $10,000 credit, as tempting as it sounds, would largely benefit those with the means to kick in and pay for those additional costs from their own personal resources.
It all boils down to take care of the few while ignoring the many. But that’s pretty much the Republican philosophy anyway.
And check this out: Texas House Speaker Dale Phelan is really giving the stiff arm to Democrats when it comes to Committee Chairmanships in the current session. Last time around, he appointed 13 Democratic Committee Chairs. This session, that’s down to 8—almost 40 percent less.
What’s that mean for education? Houston Democrat Harold Dutton, who had chaired the Public Education Committee, was thrown under the bus in favor of Brad Buckley, a Killeen Republican who has been an opponent of school vouchers.
And Gov. Greg Abbott, who failed miserably in managing the Covid crisis in Texas, (He banned vaccination and mask mandates in the face of rising case counts, hospitalizations, and fatalities, despite opposition from local communities and school districts) is a strong and vocal supporter of vouchers. Although it’s worth noting that the San Marcos CISD trustees put the health and safety of students ahead of Abbott’s political games by defying his orders and protecting students.
So the agenda is pretty clear here. Unless we stop them, Abbott and Republicans in the state legislature will undermine the financial viability of our public schools—at the expense of students, placing an additional financial strain on local school districts and taxpayers.
What can you do? Contact your legislators and demand that they put the kibosh on school vouchers. Once and for all. And they do it now.
Here’s a list of Hays County’s state legislators and their contact information:
Rep. Erin Zwiener (D), HD-45 Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D), SD-21
P.O. Box 2910 P.O. Box 12068
Austin, TX 78768 Capitol Station
512-463-0647 Austin, TX 78711
Rep. Carrie Isaac (R), HD-73 Sen. Donna Cambpell (R), SD-25
P.O. Box 2910 P.O. Box 12068
Austin, TX 78768 Austin, TX 78711