Savings accounts could change Texas education system

State education committee hearing

AUSTIN - Some members of the Texas Senate are considering a change that would take the power of education out of the hands of the state, and put it into the hands of parents.

That power would be in the form of a school choice program called Education Savings Accounts, or ESAs.

Essentially, parents who aren't happy with their child's public school get state money on a debit card for other education options like private school, tutors or community college credit.

Five states currently use ESAs, and the Senate Education Committee is evaluating what works best in those states during testimony at the Capitol this week.

Education takes up more than $50 billion dollars of the state budget, and opponents of the Education Savings Accounts argue the program only saves the state money. They do not believe it helps fix the education system.

"You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig. You can call a voucher something else, but it's still a voucher,” said Charles Luke with the Coalition for Public Schools.

The coalition is fighting on behalf of public schools to keep all taxpayer money in public schools.

During testimony at the Capitol Wednesday, however, a researcher and professor at the University of Arkansas presented evidence that ESAs do benefit the overall education system in addition to saving the state money.

Dr. Patrick Wolf has student school choice programs all over the country. According to Wolf, data shows that states using the school choice programs have higher graduation rates, higher test scores in both public and private schools, and lower crime rates. GO HERE for more information on Dr. Wolf’s research on school choice from the University of Arkansas.

As for criticism that Education Savings Accounts only benefit wealthier students, Wolf said his research shows “in terms of participation in private school choice programs, it's overwhelmingly people of color and low-income kids."

It’s important to note that private schools don’t have to offer special education programs or accept every student that applies.

No formal bill has been filed for ESAs in Texas as of Sept. 14. A bill cannot be filed in the state legislature until after the November election.

(© 2016 KVUE)


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