Facts and insights about Texas public schools

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RYHT: Vouchers Won’t Help Texas’ Most Vulnerable Students

Dr. Chris Lubienski, a professor of education policy at Indiana University, has researched the effects of charter schools and vouchers around the world for more than two decades. He was recently interviewed by the folks at Raise Your Hand Texas (RYHT) about the possible benefits of vouchers for Texas’ disadvantaged students.

Lubienski said that in the U.S., schools are segregated by socioeconomic status. Poorer kids attend poorer schools and that poses a big problem. School choice proponents contend that allowing disadvantaged students to attend a better school would make a critical difference in their outcomes.

“In the last couple of years, we’ve seen some high quality studies of large-scale voucher programs similar to what we see proposed in Texas. In these places, the results are unanimous…Students who use vouchers to attend a private school are hurt academically by doing that. The rate of their learning compared to their peers slows down. They would have learned more if they had stayed in public schools,” Lubienski said.

He added that investing in early childhood education and better training programs for teachers helps students most and is cumulative over time.

Read “Dr. Chris Lubienski on how vouchers hurt Texas’ most vulnerable kids” on the RYHT Website.

May 24, 2017

School Finance Reform, Facilities Funding Held Up by Voucher Provision

Guy Sconzo, executive director of the Fast Growth School Coalition, voiced his opinion on the latest Senate Bill 21 developments:

“It is unfortunate that our Lieutenant Governor is holding public school facilities funding and school finance reform hostage in exchange for an unpopular school voucher program that both Republican and Democrat members of the Texas Legislature have long opposed,” Sconzo said,

Sconzo noted that instead of increasing public school funding—the original goal of Senate Bill 21—last-minute amendments have resulted in the bill including vouchers and facilities funding for charter schools. “Our simple response: thanks, but no thanks. Rather than put politics ahead of policy priorities, we’re grateful for leaders…who have focused on real reform and school finance solutions.

Read “FGSC on Lt. Governor’s Voucher, School Funding Threat” on the Fast Growth School Coalition Website.

May 22, 2017

Vouchers Aren’t Working for Indiana Special Education Students

A new NPR story examines Indiana’s school voucher program, the largest statewide voucher program in the country. There are barriers for voucher students seeking admission to Indiana’s private schools, including academic standards, a record of good behavior, and sometimes even statements of faith.

Students needing special education services are one group having a hard time actually using the voucher program to attend private schools, for a variety of reasons:

  • Many don’t meet private school admission standards.
  • Many are turned away by administrators who tell them they can’t provide the required services.
  • Many families of students with disabilities choose to stay in public schools because they would lose American’s with Disabilities Act protections if they leave.

Public schools are required to enroll all students and provide the services needed for students with disabilities. It is no surprise that public schools serve Indiana’s students with disabilities at a much higher rate than private schools.

Texas legislators are currently considering an amendment to the school finance bill that would allow special education students to use vouchers to attend private schools. The Indiana example indicates that most of those students won’t benefit from the gesture. However, some legislators would delight in the notion of vouchers gaining even a small foothold in Texas.

Listen to “Indiana’s school choice program often underserves special needs students” on Texas Public Radio.

May 17, 2017

Vouchers Resurface as Legislature Negotiates Public School Finance Bill

Just when you thought the Texas House had successfully derailed the Senate’s support of school vouchers, an amendment was added to the school finance substitute bill (CSHB 21) that would allow vouchers for special education students.

Kristin Tassin, board president in Fort Bend ISD, urges education advocates not to be fooled. “Vouchers are no better for children with disabilities than they are for any other child,” Tassin said in an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle. Tassin notes that voucher requirements and legal considerations will prevent most of the children legislators claim to want to help from qualifying for or being able to use vouchers.

She also rebuts the idea that vouchers will save the state money and points out that private schools and nonpublic charter schools are, in effect, unregulated, since they aren’t part of the state’s accountability system.

Read “Public education is in the ring again: Fight over vouchers is not over yet” in the Houston Chronicle.

May 16, 2017

Texas Falls Farther Behind in Per-Pupil Funding

An article by the Associated Press in U.S. News and World Report notes that Texas’ per-pupil spending continues to fall farther behind the national average, despite a ruling from the Texas Supreme Court declaring the system barely constitutional last year.

The Texas State Teachers Association, the Texas arm of the National Education Association, presented data showing that per-pupil funding decreased $143 from 2015–16 to 2016–17. Texas ranks 36th nationwide in classroom spending.

Read “Texas Per-Pupil Funding Falls Farther Below National Average” on the U.S. News and World Report Website.

May 15, 2017

State Budget Gains When Property Values Rise

When property values rise, so does local tax revenue, resulting in a drop in state aid revenue for schools. Districts that have high levels of property wealth send more revenue to the state through the recapture system (also known as the Robin Hood system) when their property values increase. The state uses property tax growth and recaptured dollars for priorities outside of education.

May 11, 2017

TASB Talks Podcast Features Districts of Innovation

In the latest TASB Talks podcast, TASB’s Legal Services Division Director Joy Baskin discusses the implementation of the District of Innovation designation by some Texas school districts. More than 200 districts seeking more local control and flexibility have innovation plans in place and have earned the designation or are somewhere in the process.

May 10, 2017

School Funding Woes Could Be Eased with Consistent State Contribution

It seems that every year, Texans pay higher property taxes. It’s easy to see why they would be frustrated when they hear that public schools are underfunded. If they’re paying more, why aren’t schools getting more?

The answer is that the state’s school funding formula allows a portion of those property tax funds to fill other budget holes. Over time, this practice has resulted in the Legislature shifting the cost for funding public education to local taxpayers.

The state can get a good start on resolving the problems with our school finance system just by increasing what it pays per student and maintaining that level of funding. For more, read “Why is the state’s share of public school funding shrinking?” on the KERA News Website.

May 4, 2017

More than 120,000 Texas students take AP exams

The number of Texas graduates who took at least one Advanced Placement Program exam last year was 122,606. Texas ranked above the national average of 36.2 percent. According to the College Board, Texas was again the closest state to achieving equitable participation for low-income students.


May 2, 2017

RYHT: Vouchers May Lead to Fewer Students, But Not Lower Costs

Raise Your Hand Texas (RYHT) recently took on the argument that vouchers won’t take funds from public schools. The rationale behind the argument is that fewer students should mean lower costs for districts.

RYHT notes that under a voucher system, districts would lose resources but have the same fixed costs. They would still have to pay to transport students to school. They would likely have to pay for the same number of educators and administrators. Custodial staff would still be needed to clean buildings and the district would still pay for utilities. Districts would end up with less money but their overall expenses would not change.

Read “The Truth about Vouchers and School District Costs” on the RYHT Website.

May 1, 2017