Voucher Bills Again at the Texas Capitol

Proposed schemes for private school vouchers — which drain money from neighborhood public schools to pay for tuition at private and religious schools — have sparked heated battles in Texas legislative sessions since the 1990s. Tomorrow the Senate Education Committee will take up two key voucher bills.

Senate Bill 1301 by Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, would provide vouchers for students with autism and autism spectrum disorder. SB 183 by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, would create a broader voucher program for students with disabilities.

All Texas kids, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, deserve a quality education in Texas public schools. But voucher schemes aren’t the answer. Why? Among the reasons:

  • They would drain away millions of dollars that public schools need to provide special education services to students with disabilities who would not go to a private school.
  • The value of each voucher would not be enough to cover the full costs of special education services charged by private providers. Higher-income families would be able to afford to cover the cost difference, while low-income families would not. Moreover, families smaller communities — especially in rural areas — would have few or no private options. Students with disabilities would then be attending public schools with even fewer resources for providing special education services.
  • Public tax dollars would be diverted to private entities that are unaccountable to taxpayers and don’t have to meet the same standards as public schools.
  • Limited voucher bills such as these in other states have served to open the door to far more expensive schemes. In Texas a broader voucher scheme could drain hundreds of millions of dollars from neighborhood public schools.

Families of children with disabilities deserve real help, not false promises that would weaken our public schools by draining away scarce resources.  We applaud Sen. Shapiro’s and Sen. Williams’ desire to help students with special needs, but these bills would only make it harder for most families to get that help.

So what would help? The Arc of Texas has identified bills that would provide real help to all students with disabilities, including SB 1125, SB 1489, SB 1490, SB 2083, SB 2044HB 3173 and HB 2657.

These bills address issues such as teacher training, program development, accountability measures and transition planning for students as they leave the school system.

What can you do? Contact Senate Education Committee members and tell them that voucher schemes aren’t the solution for families of students with autism. Our public schools should instead have the tools and resources they need to provide all students with disabilities a quality education.

6 thoughts on “Voucher Bills Again at the Texas Capitol

  1. Maybe if they take a voucher they should come under the review and some control of a taxpayer school district. As taxpayers we should start having some control over what our money is doing

  2. I had a crash course working at a charter school. There were no textbooks or basic instructional materials; the majority of students were special education and teachers were scheduled with four or five different subjects during the same class/period; the principal had a high school diploma, but was best friends with the guy who started the school; ARD meetings were illegal and teachers were not invited – but coerced into signing the forms; there was no support for discipline and at-risk students began lagging even further behind and the list goes on and on.

    Money drives every decision, but none trickles down to the students. Teachers are non-certified and not highly qualified, but the couple that are there are brow-beaten and abused. The culture is one of overt, outright fraud and T.E.A. forms are submitted with fraudulent information. Teachers are forced to administer four or five different grades of TAKS tests during the same period.

    The irony is that a T.E.A. monitor who visits the campuses can’t or won’t see what is obvious. The schmoozing is sickening.

    I am sickened beyond belief. Charter schools are a failure and need to close. We simply cannot monitor a system that assumes integrity and ethics.

  3. While I don’t agree with the voucher program for the above reasons, if the SBOE gets more of their way by the time my son is ready for middle school, the vouchers would be taking money away from the public religious schools so I could send my child to private schools that teach real science.

  4. Charles, you want “Freedom Fries” with those “vooshays?”

    But maybe you’re onto something. If we cast vouchers as somehow vaguely Frenchly distasteful, perhaps the conservatives will knee-jerkedly reject them. Worth a shot.

  5. I have been in public schools for 12 years and I can’t figure out “WHY” any teacher would NOT see a need for these vouchers!
    We are not trained to deal with such emotionally disturbed illnesses that come with children under the Autism Spectrum….I am also speaking from experience–my son is 14-yrs old with Autism-Aspergers and things get harder every year…he is physically developing, his hormones are raging and he has very little “common sense” that your average 14-yr old would have.

    I wish everyone could look beyond MONEY and try to understand that these children that are being denied the proper education and suffer from mental and emotional disabilities caused by Autism. They are just innocent minds “caught in the system”