State legislatures have more impact on education than any form of government. As an educator in Texas, I am currently experiencing this impact firsthand. Let me explain. The Texas Legislature is now in session, and public education is once again a major issue in this biennium. Since public school budgets were slashed six years ago and slightly improved 4 years ago, school finance is once again a major topic as it should be. There is no doubt that schools need additional funding to address the higher academic expectations and the huge increases in enrollment that every public school faces.
But there is another issue gaining steam that will once again take money from public schools, and that issue is called vouchers. The public knows little about them as the concept has many different meanings depending on who you ask. Here is my understanding of vouchers based on what I have read and seen in other states.
Vouchers give parents choice in where to send their child to school.
- Currently without vouchers, parents already have a choice in where to send their children to school.
- Schools that fail to meet state accountability requirements must offer parents the option (at the district's expense) to send their child to another public school within the district. This is in place for districts with multiple enrollment schools.
- Most public school districts accept students who wish to transfer in from another school.
- For parents who wish to have their children educated through private schools or homeschool, that choice currently exists also.
- School choice already exists, and furthermore, this current form of choice doesn't take money from public schools!
Vouchers take Money from Public Education
- A voucher essentially takes money from a public school and gives it to the parent to use at the private institution of their choice.
- Parents could send their child to private school or homeschool and the state would pay the parents for it.
- The state will subsidize vouchers by taking the money from the public school system. There's no other way to pay for it. (BTW - Did I mention that schools currently are not adequately funded?)
- With a voucher system in place, public schools are left with less money to educate ALL kids.
Forget the Dollars & Let's Talk Sense.
Let's forget the topic of money and just look at the issue of vouchers preparing all kids for the future. After all, the entire argument for vouchers is that it is a better way to educate all kids.
- What research supports vouchers as being a more effective way to educate ALL children?
- Will non-public school entities (private, home-school, etc.) that accept students with vouchers be required to be evaluated under the same TEA accountability standards as its public school counterparts do?
- Will non-public school entities that accept students with vouchers be held to the same End-Of-Course requirements for high school students as its public school counterparts?
- Will non-public school entitites that accept students with vouchers be required to have 100% percent of their staff meet highly qualified certification requirements as its public school counterparts?
- Will non-public school entitites that accept vouchers be required to be accredited as its public school counterparts do?
- Will non-public school entities that accept students with vouchers be required to administer all state tests as its public school counterparts do? (STAAR, STAAR-A, SOA, STAAR-Spanish, STAAR-Alt 2, TELPAS, TPRI, etc.).
- Will non-public school entities that accept students with vouchers be required to accept every student that shows up on their door step as its public school counterparts do and meet their individualized needs? (Special Education, 504, G/T, ESL, RtI, etc.)
- Will non-public school entities that accept students with vouchers be required to track every student and submit evidence (like public schools are required to do) to ensure that no child drops out of school?
- Will non-public school entities that accept students with vouchers be required to offer rigorous college AND career pathways (see House Bill 5) that help push every child to graduate under the Texas Recommended High School, Distinguished Achievement Program or the new Foundation High School Program as its public school counterparts do?
The reason that I have these questions is because they are based on state requirements that all public schools are required to follow. Non-public school institutions currently don't have to adhere to all of these requirements. If these schools are going to accept state funds to educate students, then they should be required to follow the same stringent guidelines as its public school counterparts. Furthermore, they should be evaluated with the same measuring stick.
Some legislators tout that public schools are failing and private schools are not. That is not a fair statement because public schools exist in a punitive system of accountability while private schools make their own rules. Additionally, private schools pick and choose their students, while public school accept and educate ALL KIDS! There's just no comparison.
Vouchers aren't for ALL Kids
The last issue I have surrounds all kids. Have our legislators realized that taking money from public schools hurts kids? A voucher system is nothing short of taking money from public schools and giving it to private entities that currently do not have the same requirements or more importantly evidence of effectiveness.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not against private schools
. I am against the state legislature taking money collected for the purpose of educating the public and giving it private schools.
If you also share these questions or have additional questions, please join me in asking our state legislators these questions at http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/.
I would definitely like to know how a system that plans to divert money from public schools will help the kids left in public schools.
Finally, Public Education in Texas is Effective.
Graduation rates in Texas are one of the highest in the nation. ACT and SAT participation and performance rates are improving. More students are on a college or career pathway than ever in the history of our state. If more students are being successful than ever before, then why would the government redirect money away from an improving system? If you believe the future of our nation, then you want to ensure that the public receives the highest quality education. Any legislation that detracts from educating the public is essentially killing the future prosperity of our nation.