States map 2015 for blog Written by Don Byrd

Some Texas lawmakers want the state to institute a school voucher program that would send taxpayer money into the hands of parents to apply toward private school tuition, including religious school tuition. A proposal for Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) was considered in the Texas House Public Education Committee earlier this week.

As the Texas Tribune reports, the measure received considerable opposition.

Rep. Marsha Farney asserted early on Monday that diverting public funds to private schools may violate the Texas Constitution, which requires state lawmakers to support a free system of public schools.

“To me, words matter. The Constitution matters,” she said. “And when people refer to state funds and the government schools, I think we should refer to the schools as the Constitution schools because that’s where it originated.” 

The Georgetown Republican, who is soon retiring, outlined a long list of some private school admission requirements — no discipline issues, good academic performance, letters of reference, drug testing and parental involvement, including financial contributions — and asked what would happen if students using public funds don’t meet those criteria.

“It appears to me either the private school is going to lose their identity and their rights to have all these rules or else the voucher is meaningless,” she said.

As the Texas Tribune piece indicates, ESAs are the latest trend among private school voucher proponents, having been enacted by 5 states, and counting, though in most state programs the focus is on providing choice for parents of special-needs children. During the hearing, voucher proponents reportedly urged lawmakers to create a universal program, available to all parents.

The House could consider the committee’s recommendations as soon as this fall. Stay tuned.