Plans in Austin could give parents tens of thousands of dollars to help pay for private schools. But people who are against it worry that it won’t give people choices and will only help families already in private schools.
Texas Senate Bill Gives Parents $10,000 For Private Education: Some parents want more choices regarding where to send their kids to school. “Education for my kid matters a lot,” said parent Tamyralynn Woods.
One option would be to give vouchers to parents that they could use to pay for private schools. “It would help a lot,” said Catania Caesar, a parent. “It would help me do a lot for my child. It would help me out a lot to get him started, first of all.”
In this session, private school vouchers will likely be discussed in Austin. One of the bills on this topic comes from Sen. Mayes Middleton, from the Galveston area.
Middleton said, “We’re putting more tools in the hands of Texas parents to decide what is best for their child because, at the end of the day, children belong to their parents.”
Middleton’s bill gives parents $10,000 per student. This money can be used to pay for things like school, technology, and transportation.
“Once money follows the child, you see a lot of innovations and programs like hybrid-home schooling, which is a two-day-a-week brick-and-mortar, three-day week home-school which are usually run out of old churches,” Middleton said.
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Vouchers Give Options, But Opponents Worry It May Not Provide Parents With More Choices: Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick agree. In the past, though, it hasn’t worked because rural Republicans and Democrats have been able to stop it. They are ready this time.
State Rep. Harold Dutton explained, “What happens is that people sending their kids to private schools now will simply be getting the state to help them send them there, but I suspect if we did that, private schools will raise their tuition.”
Some people don’t think that this gives parents more choices. Even a coupon might not be enough to pay for everything.
State Rep. Armando Walle said, “Just because you’re offered a voucher, $10,000, whatever the amount is, that doesn’t automatically get you admitted into that private school.”
Democrats also worry that this means public schools will lose money. The GOP says that about 70% of students would go to private schools.
But the rest of the money would still go to public schools. A group called Children at Risk says that a private school might not be the best choice because of accountability.
Dr. Bob Sanborn, an activist with Children at Risk, said, “Now if we have these schools and they’re private, we can’t shut them down,” “What you’re doing is draining the system of these public education dollars to schools that are going to be questionable at best.”
Private Schools Support The Idea That Cost Is Why Some Families Don’t Explore The Option: Leaders of private schools see it differently. Officials at Houston’s Xavier Academy said private schools are a great alternative to public schools.
“Each private school has a reason for their existence,” said Richard Delacuadar, the founder of Xavier Academy. “We target sometimes specific populations. If we have a proven track record where we can succeed, I think that’s something we can offer that other schools cannot.”
Leaders of private schools say that many students can’t even look into it because they don’t have enough money. “Some parents don’t even consider the option,” said Delacuadar. “They find out your tuition and see a number, and that’s it. The process stops there.”
This is why Republicans say they are pushing the bill this session: to give parents more choices while still giving money to public schools. This session will probably be dominated by a debate.
“This bill empowers parents, and the right thing to do is put tools in the hands of parents when deciding for themselves,” Middleton said.
“Vouchers are a fundamental threat to our democracy because it undermines the ability to fund our public schools,” said Walle.
If the bill from the Senate is passed, it will go into effect this September. But parents could get their hands on the money until 2024.
ABC13 asked what it means to be responsible. We’ve been told there will be ways to catch fraud and ensure the money goes to schools.
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