The Texas Legislature is in the middle of yet another special session - this time dealing with education savings accounts or, more familiarly, school vouchers. Simply put, public money (i.e. taxpayers’ dollars) are made available for parents to ‘choose’ their child’s school…instead of public schools, vouchers can be used to help lower the cost for private, parochial or homeschooling options.
In a recent study conducted by Raise Your Hand Texas, 20 studies that applied to the school voucher concepts and an additional eight studies published between 2019-2021 were reviewed. Their methodologies focused on three key areas: first, examining statewide voucher programs; second, investigating longitudinal effects of voucher programs, and third, systematically reviewing academic voucher studies. In short, the summary of these programs provided little to no positive impact. And, in several cases, the studies concluded that there were multiple negative impacts including not helping disadvantaged students, the challenges of availability of vouchers, college and career readiness, and the student and family experiences.
From the Raise Your Hand Texas report, “Voucher and school choice programs claim to provide educational opportunities to disadvantaged students. However, recent studies in their research review show voucher programs do not always reach the populations of students they claim to reach, nor are they accessible and maintainable for the students whom proponents argue are in most need.” Simply put, voucher programs generally don’t benefit the intended student populations. Where vouchers have been used to send students to private schools, in many cases, parents are left with paying the difference between the cost to attend and the voucher…leaving parents unable to afford the remaining tuition, uniforms, transportation, meals, etc.
Research on student achievement, test scores, and college and career readiness showed mixed results at best, which further suggests that, without significant impact, vouchers rarely deliver on their intended purposes. Even college graduation rates from students who attended schools on the voucher program saw little to no difference than their matched peers in public schools.
And, lastly, there is the claim that vouchers and school choice induce market competition between schools. Once again, the results are mixed at best. In higher density population markets where there were more schools to choose from, the initial results were indeed positive. However, in rural communities with fewer private school options available, vouchers actually weakened the community by fostering the departure of relatively high-achieving students from the local public schools to neighboring private schools.
At the end of the day, Granbury and communities like ours have turned out and continue to turn out a future workforce of college and career-ready students. The Granbury Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors at its most recent board meeting passed a resolution against voucher programs that could potentially drain monies from public education without holding private, parochial, and homeschools the same accountability standards for using public monies that public school districts must follow. In addition, 30+ chambers of commerce in North Texas recently supported an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News from the North Texas Commission, that vouchers are ultimately bad for business, bad for public education, and bad for Texas.