January 2023 Church & State Magazine - January 2023

Voucher Push In Texas Draws Opposition From State Board Of Education


Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and a band of lawmakers in the state legislature plan to push a school voucher plan this year, but they’ve run into opposition from an unexpected source: the State Board of Education.

Last month, state Sen. Mayes Middleton (R-Wallisville) prefiled a bill to create a “Texas Parental Empowerment Program” that would offer education savings accounts, a form of voucher, to parents statewide, reported the Dallas Morning News.

Abbott, who was reelected to a third term in November, pushed vouchers during his campaign. Voucher bills have surfaced periodically in the state, but they haven’t been able to garner enough support to pass. Some Republican legislators in rural parts of the state where private schools are scarce oppose vouchers because they offer nothing to their constituents.

The Texas State Board of Education has also come out against vouchers. The board, which has a conservative majority, went on record on Nov. 18 in opposition to vouchers.

Texas Monthly reported that while the coalition of Democrats and rural Republicans has been able to defeat vouchers in the past, advocates of the privatization scheme believe 2023 may be their best chance yet.

Voucher advocates are also looking at options that don’t involve passing a plan in their legislature. Texas Monthly reported that pro-voucher advocates lobbied officials in the town of Wimberley to create a charter school called the Achievement Campus on paper only and use it to funnel taxpayer money to private schools.

“The scheme was complex but it pursued a simple goal: turning taxpayer dollars intended for public education into funds for private schools,” reported Texas Monthly. “The kids would be counted as Wimberley ISD students enrolled at the Achievement Campus, thus drawing significant money to the district. (In Texas, public schools receive funding based in large part on how many students attend school each day.) But the tax dollars their ‘attendance’ brought to the district would be redirected to private institutions across the state.”

The plan failed in Wimberley, but voucher opponents say it may resurface elsewhere.

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