‘It’s time for the political games to stop,’ Texas school advocates call on final day of legislature

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On the final day of the 88th Texas Legislature, public school advocates urged Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Senate to end their pursuit of vouchers or education savings accounts.

ESAs had been a priority for the governor and lieutenant governor this session. However, legislation to create the program was defeated in the House, making it likely to reappear if the governor calls a special session.

Had the ESAs passed, they would have sent public funds to private schools for the first time in modern Texas history.

At a press conference Monday morning from Austin, Texas, Texas School Coalition Executive Director Christy Rome said lawmakers need to hear from parents and educators that “Texans do not support putting public funds in private and home schools” that have no taxpayer responsibility.

Kevin Brown, who heads the Texas Association of School Administrators, said the state now has a record of funds that lawmakers decided not to allocate to public education. That’s because a bill that would have raised teacher pay and increased money for public schools was tied to ESAs and ultimately failed.

“The Senate’s inclusion of vouchers was a poison pill and they knew it,” Brown said.

“It’s time for the political games to stop. To give teacher pay raises, to adjust for inflation and not hold these funds hostage,” Brown added. He said Texas ranks 43rd in per-student funding compared to the rest of the country.

“We’re in a race to the bottom,” Brown said.

Plano ISD School Board President Nancy Humphrey said Texas public schools are now inadequately funded, even though it’s a constitutional requirement, even with the state’s historic 2023 budget surplus .

“Texans don’t want to give away billions of dollars to private schools without a system of accountability,” Humphrey said.

The bond legislation proposed and pushed through this session would not have required private schools to change their rules, which currently allow them to deny students for a variety of reasons, academic, financial or otherwise.

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