Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators

Another Special Session, Another Push for Vouchers

Another Special Session, Another Push for Vouchers

Your Voice | By Monty Exter, ATPE Governmental Relations Director

Where are we after the third called (not so) special session? The short answer—exactly where we were before it began.

It has been clear since before the beginning of the 88th regular session back in January that Gov. Greg Abbott’s primary, if not only, education goal is to pass private school vouchers. Nothing in the 11 months since the 88th Legislature began its tenure has changed that. If anything, it has simply become clearer that he is uninterested in supporting the 5.4 million students being educated in Texas public schools or the educators teaching them.

Abbott really cares about delivering for his mega-donors on the voucher issue, but why do we—public education advocates—care so much about vouchers? To answer that, let’s explore their impact on three groups: kids who would receive them, the public education community, and taxpayers.

Voucher Recipients

First, let’s acknowledge that voucher recipients would themselves break down into two groups, something voucher proponents rarely acknowledge. The first and larger group, based on how vouchers have rolled out in other states, are families who already have their kids in private schools. For these folks, nothing really changes except they would now get a taxpayer-funded check from the government for $10,000 per kid.

The second group are families using a voucher to switch educational settings. Between price and lack of available seats and selectivity, these kids—by and large—would not be attending the same schools as the first group. Again, based on similar programs in other states, new low-quality vendors tend to pop up charging the exact amount of the voucher after a program passes. Students tend not to stay at these voucher schools very long, and the schools themselves tend to shut down—often within the first three years.

The Public Education Community

Whether they choose to stay in public schools, were denied by their private school of choice, or returned to public schools, children educated in their local public school will have fewer resources as a result of voucher spending. This would be true for all public schools regardless of the varying impact a voucher might have on district enrollment. Under the proposed voucher program, the potential biennial cost of vouchers for current private and home-school students would be at least $6 billion out of the state budget. The drop in public school resources will be compounded for districts that also experience enrollment decline.


The real genius of the founders of Texas was allowing the local communities that pay for public education to have a real say in the cultural aspects of the education they are paying for through locally elected trustees of local independent school districts. But what about parental choice? One of the great things about America is that we protect individual rights even when they conflict with community values. That’s why we don’t now—and have never—forced parents to educate their kids in public schools. If parents wish to seek out a private school setting or home school, they can.

What is un-American is forcing the taxpaying community—in this case through vouchers—to fund an individual’s choice to use an educational setting that includes indoctrination potentially contrary to the community’s values. That is a move toward taxation without representation—the very issue that sparked the creation of our country to begin with.

Despite vouchers having negative impacts on voucher recipients, the public education community, and taxpayers at large, the governor has, at taxpayer expense, called the Legislature back for a fourth special session to continue to bully a voucher program into existence here in Texas. The men and women of the Texas Legislature who have repeatedly told him “no” need to hear from you that you support them. If you have not contacted your legislators yet, now is the time. You can contact them in as little as two minutes through ATPE’s Advocacy Central.