• By Diana Long • IDRA Newsletter • June – July 2023 •
One of the primary concerns during the Texas legislative session was Governor Greg Abbott’s pressure to pass private school vouchers by establishing education savings accounts. Proponents argued that vouchers would empower parents while ignoring all that parents and their children would lose. IDRA and other organizations and individuals expressed concerns about the negative impact vouchers would have on families, public schools and communities (IDRA, 2023; Latham Sikes, April 11, 2023a). Vouchers would divert crucial funds away from already underfunded public schools, exacerbating funding inequities and leaving some students without essential resources (PFPS, 2023).
IDRA calls such proposals part of the “Texas Three-Step” in which the state attempts to defund, demonize and privatize public education.
Backed by the Governor and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Senate Bill 8 by Sen. Brandon Creighton emerged as a highly prioritized bill during the session. This bill aimed to divert at least $8,000 per participating student from public education funds to private accounts for parents to use for private schools or educational services. Ultimately, the Senate and House did not agree on private school vouchers, and the House did not advance SB 8.
As a last-ditch effort, the Senate stuck a voucher proposal onto HB 100, which primarily focused on increasing funding to public schools, including an increase to the basic allotment which would benefit teachers’ pay and all students’ per-pupil funding (Long, May 2023; Latham Sikes, May 2023). Ultimately, the House refused to move it forward, and the bill expired in the final days of the session.
Several other private voucher proposals passed the Senate and met their end in the House. Among these were ESAs for students with special needs in HB 4340 and HB 3781 (Latham Sikes, April 12, 2023; Long, April 2023; Latham Sikes, April 11, 2023b).
Rather than creating vouchers for a few students, state leaders could have increased funding to serve all students.
While the 2023 legislative session was challenging, it also highlighted the power of collective action and the importance of remaining hopeful. Community members across Texas told lawmakers to keep public funding in public schools. Their success was a huge victory against the push to privatize public education.
Thankfully, a bipartisan group of lawmakers held firm against private school voucher bills, but the issue will likely return this fall during a special legislative session. Governor Abbott announced his plan to call another special session focused on vouchers. We encourage you to remain engaged and stay informed to advocate for equitable education in any upcoming special sessions and in local communities. Sign up for IDRA’s alerts at https://idra.news/SubscribeMe.
As we move forward, IDRA is committed to ensuring that every child has access to an education that prepares them for a successful future. Together, we can build a more equitable education system that uplifts and empowers all students.
Latham Sikes, C. (April 11, 2023a). Private School Voucher Programs Disempower Parents – IDRA Testimony against HB 4807 Submitted to the Texas House Public Education Committee.
Latham Sikes, C. (April 11, 2023b). Education Savings Accounts Should Not Come at the Cost of Improvements to Texas Special Education – IDRA Testimony against HB 3781 Submitted to the Texas House Public Education Committee.
Long, D. (May 22, 2023). HB 100 Poses a Threat to Students’ Civil Rights with Devastating, Discriminatory Impacts on Vulnerable Students– TLEEC Testimony Against HB 100 Submitted to the Texas Senate Education Committee.
Diana Long was an IDRA Education Policy Fellow in 2022-23. Comments and questions may be directed to her via email at email@example.com.
[©2023, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the May 2023 edition of the IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]