Strengthening Public Schools
The Texas Freedom Network supports full funding of the state’s public schools. Vouchers are a controversial proposition to use tax dollars to fund tuition at private and religious schools. Such a plan would drain money from our public schools, diverting scarce tax dollars to private and religious schools that don't have to meet the same standards as public schools and are unaccountable to taxpayers.
Additionally, spending public tax dollars for religious schools violates the state and federal constitutional separation of church and state. Click here for a briefing paper about the history of vouchers and the role of religion in public education.
As far back as
1997, the Texas Faith Network began building a coalition of Texas clergy who
are opposed to vouchers. To date, almost 150 religious leaders across
the state have signed onto the Clergy Statement
of Opposition to Vouchers.
Proponents have tried to pass voucher bills in every legislative session since 1995. To bolster these efforts, the voucher lobby has poured millions of dollars into the campaigns of selected statewide and legislative candidates. Even so, efforts to pass a voucher scheme have run up against overwhelming opposition from mainstream Texans opposed to draining money from public schools. As a result, the Texas Freedom Network and other groups and legislators have successfully blocked voucher bills in each session. In 2007, the Texas House voted 127-8 to forbid the use of public funds for private school vouchers. Although the measure failed to become law, that vote represented the most resounding defeat of vouchers ever in the Texas Legislature. Then in 2009, the Legislature voted overwhelmingly to include the ban on public funding for private school vouchers in the final state budget.
Undaunted, voucher lobbyists and the lawmakers they have helped elect with huge campaign contributions continue to push for legislative passage of private school voucher schemes.
Why Vouchers Are Bad for Texas
1. Even a pilot voucher program would siphon hundreds of millions of dollars in public tax dollars out of neighborhood public schools to fund private and religious schools. Public schools are already struggling to pay for equipment and other resources they need to teach our children.
2. Vouchers don’t create ’choice’ for parents and kids; they create ’choice’ for private schools at taxpayers’ expense. The private voucher experiment in progress in Edgewood ISD confirms that private schools will use vouchers to recruit the most talented and academically motivated kids out of public schools at taxpayers’ expense, leaving behind the children who can’t get into private school.
3. Despite the loss of some students to vouchers, schools will not see a reduction in their bond debt, personnel and program costs. School boards would be left holding the bag-forced to make up their budget shortfall by raising the property taxes of local businesses and citizens.
4. The pro-voucher lobby’s promises are misleading. Elite private schools are very selective and a voucher would not cover tuition. Many private schools would refuse vouchers if state accountability tests or standards were required.
5. Due to the huge sums of tax money that would be newly available under a voucher scheme, fly-by-night schools would open, looking only to make a profit. The state would be powerless to prevent these unaccredited and unqualified schools from taking taxpayer funds.
6. Spending public tax dollars for religious schools violates the state and federal constitutional separation of church and state. Hundreds of clergy from across the state have decried the use of vouchers as an affront to our constitutionally guaranteed protections.
7. There is no credible evidence that vouchers improve the educational achievement of students who use them, while there is abundant proof that smaller classes, early reading intervention, a longer school year, and other reforms do work. Voucher schemes represent a billion dollar long-shot gamble with our children’s lives and our state’s future.
8. Vouchers would allow us to shirk our responsibility to provide a first class education for EVERY CHILD in Texas.