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The fight over school vouchers in Texas

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It’s being called “school choice,” “education freedom,” and “education savings accounts.” These names all mean the same thing—vouchers.

School vouchers is the use of tax dollars to pay private school tuition.
In his State of the State speech on Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott pitched his plan for vouchers, designating it as an emergency item for expedited consideration this legislative session.

Earlier last week a leaked recording of a conversation between a Texas Education Agency official and an unnamed parent revealed that the TEA was secretly working in favor of vouchers, which could be seen as a betrayal of its mission since vouchers would siphon money away from the traditional public school system.

In that recorded call, the official, TEA Deputy Commissioner Steve Lechelop, asked if the woman would speak with one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s speechwriters. Abbott would then use her story to promote his voucher policy. And he admitted if vouchers are allowed, then Texas schools will lose students and funding.

The argument in favor of school vouchers is that they provide families with more choice and control over their children's education. Supporters say the primary goal of school vouchers is to increase access to quality education for students. In addition, supporters of school vouchers argue that they create competition and promote innovation in education by allowing families to choose the best school for their child.

Proponents of school vouchers also argue that they promote educational equity by providing low-income families with the same opportunities to access quality education that more affluent families have.

Critics of school vouchers, however, point out that vouchers divert public funds away from public schools, which have shown leads to underfunding of the traditional public school system which is where the majority of students continue to attend.

This causes a decline in quality education for the general population.
Opponents also argue that school vouchers can lead to increased segregation and inequality, as families with more resources are more likely to be able to take advantage of school vouchers and send their children to private schools.

But research shows that the majority of students who adopt the use of vouchers were already attending private school, so the program was a way to use tax dollars to support higher income families.


Laura Colangelo: Executive Director of the Texas Private Schools Association

Michelle Smith, Executive Director of Raise Your Hand Texas

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet@TPRSource.

*This interview will be recorded on Tuesday, February 21.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi