Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Texans, another Urgent matter: Vouchers/ESAs—Senate Bill 8—are Getting Re-considered

To get informed, read this commentary together with this piece by Becky Fogel titled, "Texas House to vote on school voucher bill with more restrictions than the Senate version." Also, read what the research says: 

Of course, call whoever represents you to oppose this nonsense of ignoring the research for a limited interest, namely, private schools, that should simply remain as the private choice they seek or prefer. 

They should not be or feel entitled to the public purse when we all pay taxes. Most taxpayers, in their heart of hearts, especially in the rural areas, do not want their dollars subsidizing the private school tuitions of already-privileged, families that would make use of them.

-Angela Valenzuela

#SayNoToVouchers #Vouchers

Texas students deserve solutions, not vouchers

May 8, 2023 | by Ruben Cortez |

Let’s kill vouchers once and for all.

Like a bad horror movie, the monster is in the House. The Texas House Committee on Public Education is preparing to vote on school vouchers, which are currently being marketed under the term Education Savings Accounts.

ESA vouchers are designed to take public tax dollars — our money — away from our local public schools in order to subsidize tuition to private schools for the elite

Vouchers are bad news for public education. That’s why the Texas House of Representatives, led by my friends and colleagues representing the Rio GrandeValley, have routinely rejected vouchers on a bipartisan basis.

Earlier this month, the Texas House voted to ban vouchers through an amendment to the state budget. It should have been a fatal blow. But as horror movies go, the monster has come back to target a new victim — students with special needs.

Families are right to be frustrated with how Texas has treated students with special needs. As a former member of the State Board of Education, I’ve heard their frustration. I’ve spent the last decade working with families and advocates to increase services and eliminate barriers for our most vulnerable students.

The Texas Constitution and federal law demand it. More importantly, it’s the right thing to do. But vouchers would make things worse, not better.

There’s a reason disability rights organizations have also consistently opposed vouchers. ESAs would force students receiving special education services in the public school system to sign away their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Together, these laws require public schools to provide a free high-quality education in the least restrictive environment to every child with a disability, no matter how much it costs the district.

Recent data from the Texas Education Agency show that Texas has underfunded special education by more than $2 billion. State funding for Brownsville ISD, for example, fell $26.4 million short of the more than $67.3 million needed to provide special education services in the 2021-22 school year.

Instead of offering to fully fund special education, voucher proponents would tell struggling families to pay out of their own pockets to try and find a private school they can afford and that will accept their students.

These unregulated schools are not covered under the ADA or IDEA and would be under no obligation to meet the unique, individual needs of students with disabilities.

Brownsville ISD serves more than 38,000 students, including 6,000 receiving special education services. The five private schools operating in Brownsville serve fewer than 1,500 students, according to a map published by the Intercultural Development Research Association. They are wonderful schools, but they have nowhere near the capacity nor the expertise to properly serve thousands of students with disabilities.

All Texas children, especially those with disabilities, deserve access to a free education of the highest quality. If we are going to improve the way we serve students with special needs, then let’s start by fully funding special education. Taking resources away from schools that have been systemically underfunded and using our most vulnerable kids as the excuse is a slap in the face to families who have fought for access to special education services.

It’s more than just wrong. It’s monstrous. I urge my friends in the Texas House to join me in standing with RGV families, students with special needs, and the disability rights community in supporting our public schools and killing ESA vouchers for good.

Ruben Cortez of Harlingen is a member of the Texas State Board of Education and former member of the Texas House of Representatives.

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