In a new report, the National Center for Policy Analysis is claiming that by embracing a private school voucher program, Texas could both save money and improve academic outcomes for its students. Currently, more than 40% of public school students are not in a learning environment that suits them best, and by providing more flexibility and putting more control into the hands of Texas families, the voucher program would not only benefit students but also provide public schools with an incentive to get better.
Texas public schools have a virtual monopoly on K-12 education dollars at the moment. Therefore, they have no real reason to change the way they approach learning, even if the current approach doesn’t work for a large chunk of their students. Creating a voucher program would provide a reason while at the same bringing about the increasingly-embraced concept of school choice.
School choice for Texas children could be implemented through universal tuition vouchers, as well as corporate and individual tuition tax credits. However, the most important reforms would give Texas students the option to choose to attend private schools. A voucher program open to all Texas K-12 students — enrolled in public or private schools — could be structured in a way that does not reduce the current funding per public school student, and adds no new cost to taxpayers. Indeed, the program would increase the funding available per public school student and there would be substantial long-term savings to public schools in reduced capital costs.
Savings could prove to be substantial. If the vouchers allowed students to use up to 75% of their per-student allotment towards private school tuition, all it would take is for fewer than half-a-million families to take advantage of the voucher for the state to save nearly $2 billion over just two academic years.
The report doesn’t speculate on what is behind the reluctance on the part of the state to adopt a voucher program, but points out that private school vouchers have been deemed constitutional by both the state and the U.S. Supreme Court.
A feasible voucher program could significantly lower discipline issues and dropout rates, allow for greater school choice and competition, and would not reduce the funding per public school student. Additional benefits of school choice include higher teacher pay due to the increased demand for high-quality teachers, increased private spending on schooling, and higher public school performance and standards due to increased competition for students and specialization of schools.