A new report was released that details the benefits of a grant program in Texas that would offer public school children the opportunity to learn in private schools using state money. While education and teacher groups largely oppose the program, the study found that it would save the state billions of dollars and greatly improve education throughout the state.
During a news conference, officials from the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Texas Association of Business, joined by state Sen. Donna Campbell and the researcher who conducted the study, said that the “Taxpayer Savings Grant Program” would increase competition and offer help to poor and minority students who would not otherwise be able to leave the low-performing schools they currently attend, writes Kiah Collier for The Statesman.
“No child should be trapped in a poor or under-performing school,” said Campbell, a Republican from New Braunfels, who described the program as a “moral obligation.”
Campbell went on to argue that the money spent on schools by the state has not yielded enough benefits. While she would not say anything with regards to whether low investment had anything to do with that, she did say that public school performance would increase with the introduction of competition.
In addition, she believes that the program will save the state up to $1.7 billion over two years “depending how many parents opt in.”
The study was released only one day after Campbell filed a bill to implement the grant program that would provide students with the necessary funding to attend the accredited private school of their parent’s choosing. The amount given is capped at 60% of the current average per-student funding spent by the state.
Campbell filed similar legislation in 2013, but it did not pass. Similar voucher programs have made their way in the Legislature before, though they too have met with no success. Critics have been quick to argue that they provide private institutions with public funding and that those institutions may not be held to the same standards as public schools.
However, Campbell believes the outcome will be different this time, with Patrick, known to be a school choice proponent, at the head of the Senate, reports Patrick Mitchels for The Texas Observer.
Earlier this week Patrick participated in a panel at an orientation event focused on the economic benefits of school choice, making it clear that the topic is still a priority for him.
“We can’t lose on this issue because we have the high ground and the Democrats, I hope, will come around,” he said, later asking for help in pushing the issue.
The program may face some opponents in the House, which passed a budget amendment in 2013 in an effort to place a ban on private school vouchers.
“We require curriculum control, we require teacher quality control, we require all sorts of regulations,” state Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen and chairman of the House Public Education Committee, said. “If I could be assured somehow that there was good quality control that followed the state money, then I’d certainly be willing to talk about it. As far as turning the money lose without any control — I’m pretty hesitant to do that.”