The Texas Legislature’s special session has sparked controversy as it attempts to channel public school funds into private school subsidies, known by names like “vouchers” or “educational savings accounts.” Faith leaders have urged lawmakers to reject any such legislation that diverts taxpayer dollars to subsidize private schools.
The constitutional mandate.
The Legislature has a duty, as enshrined in the Texas Constitution, “to make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.” The Constitution also explicitly prohibits public funding of religious schools and the teaching of any specific faith.
The role of public education.
Public education is a cornerstone of American democracy, and faith communities have played a pivotal role in its establishment. Faith leaders continue to champion the cause of public education, and the proposed voucher system threatens to siphon resources from public schools, undermining not only the quality of education but also religious freedom for our increasingly diverse population.
The need for increased funding.
State funding for public schools in Texas hasn’t increased since 2019, while inflation has risen by 19%. This fiscal shortfall has forced school districts like Dallas ISD to dip into savings to maintain balanced budgets. Texas public schools require more than $14 billion in new per-student funding just to maintain the same purchasing power as in 2019. Yet during the regular legislative session, the state allocated only $2.6 billion for this purpose. Texas expects substantial increases in revenue over the next two years, which could easily cover the required funding for schools and provide property tax relief. The economic importance of investing in Texas public schools is evident; every dollar invested generates $57 in economic benefit for the state.
Challenges with voucher programs.
Programs like those under consideration in Texas present several challenges:
■ Lack of accountability. Private schools receiving voucher tax dollars would not be required to meet state curriculum requirements or maintain the same fiscal accountability as public schools.
■ Economic disparities. Voucher programs tend to favor those who can afford private schools, leaving economically disadvantaged parents at a disadvantage.
■ Rights of students with disabilities. Voucher programs compromise the rights of students with disabilities, potentially denying them the services they’re entitled to under federal and state law.
■ Violation of separation of church and state. The use of taxpayer funds for religious content or services in private religious schools raises concerns about church-state separation.
Letters to legislators encouraged
We encourage you to send a letter to your legislator this week. Simply visit texasimpact.org/no-vouchers, fill out the form and Texas Impact will hand-deliver the letters. You can also find hard copies Sunday, Oct. 15, in James Gallery, South Atrium, near the Office and at the third floor coffee bar; fill them out and we’ll mail them for you. Grab some extras for friends, neighbors or your Sunday School class.