Several voucher bills were filed as “tax credit” or “taxpayer savings” legislation during the 84th session. Those bills included SB 4, SB 276, SB 642 and SB 1178. These bills provided a tax credit, tax incentive or reimbursement to defray or fund the cost of private education and thereby divert tax monies away from public schools to private schools. The ACLU of Texas, as part of the Coalition for Public Schools, has serious concerns about these types of voucher bills.
- Texas cannot afford to fund two school systems, one public and private system, when schools are already shortchanged. Despite the partial restoration of the 2011 budget cuts, Texas remains in the bottom quarter of states in per pupil funding and lags far below 2008 pre-recession per-pupil funding levels when adjusted for inflation. When a public school student child uses a tax credit voucher, the public school loses the revenue, but not the cost for teachers, utilities, facilities, etc. Over time, the cost of vouchers could siphon off even more education dollars should unlimited home school virtual schools get into the act. We simply can’t afford to pay for a private education system when we don’t properly fund the one we have.
- No accountability for voucher tax dollars – Under these voucher bills, private schools would not be required to meet state curriculum requirements or maintain the same fiscal accountability as public schools. Texans overwhelmingly believe that schools that receive tax dollars should be accountable for how they are spent, but the schools that receive tax credit vouchers would not be accountable to taxpayers. These voucher bills would also use public taxpayer monies to pay for attendance at private religious schools, in violation of the separation of church and state.
- Subsidizes the wealthy at the expense of others that can’t afford it - tax credit, savings account and reimbursement voucher schemes are inherently designed to be used by those who generate enough income to “need” a tax break. Economically disadvantaged parents would not be able to use a voucher unless they could afford pay the difference between the voucher check and the actual tuition, in addition to the cost of transportation. Other taxpayers would pay the price for vouchers that would primarily benefit those who could afford expensive private schools.
- “Savings” are a cut to education funding - Any “savings” are to the state and are almost entirely at the expense of the local school district that a transferring student leaves. If one or two children leave a classroom, the district’s costs are barely reduced, if at all, and certainly not in proportion to the district’s loss of funds. That lost funding would still be needed to maintain the program, causing local taxpayers to have to pick up the cost, or the local district to reduce needed programs.
All of these measures were defeated, but we expect to see them return next legislative session.