Mixed feelings on school voucher bill as it heads to Senate - KXXV Central Texas News Now

Mixed feelings on school voucher bill as it heads to Senate

Source: KXXV Source: KXXV

Some Central Texas public schools and teachers groups are voicing their opposition to the school voucher bill, which is headed to the full Texas Senate for a vote.

The Education Savings Account Program would allow families to use public funds to pay for their children’s private school or homeschooling costs.

The Association of Texas Professional Educators Region 12 President Patty Reneau, who is a teacher at Mountainview Elementary in Waco, said she is concerned not knowing the type of education children will receive in a private school or a homeschool setting.

"First of all, it would be a student and what kind of education they're going to get. Is it going to be quality education? Also, the taxpayer funds are public funds going to private individuals. What kind of assurance do we have that these are going to be quality programs in a private school or home-based school?” Reneau asked.

In addition, Reneau said she is concerned about the jobs of teachers being in jeopardy if several students leave the district. 

"If you take two classrooms out of every grade level, the teachers are not going to have a job. They have to have students and we want to make good use out of our taxpayer funds. Paying four teachers to have a few students is not going to be beneficial for the district,” Reneau said.

Waco ISD Spokesman Bruce Gietzen said if the bill becomes law, it would have a big financial implication on the district.

"Anytime you cut funding a lot, that affects the tools for education, it affects how many teachers you hire. It affects the equipment you have on the campuses," Waco ISD Spokesman Bruce Gietzen said.

However, Texas Public Policy Foundation Policy Adviser Rafa Bejar who supports the bill said if teachers lose their jobs, there would be more opportunities in private schools.

He added the bill would benefit thousands of students.

"Senate Bill 3 and Education Savings Account provide hope and a choice for those students who are trapped in failing public schools,” Bejar said.

He added this would allow parents to ultimately hold the schools accountable, which he said they can’t do now.

“They would have direct accountability either in a private school or a homeschool setting. Simply, if they don't like the type of education or the quality of the education their child is receiving, they can simply take their child and go to a different school,” Bejar said.

 Gietzen said public schools are currently being held accountable.

“Vouchers system going to private schools and providing the vouchers, there's not accountability for those schools. They don't have a testing system for how they are measured against public schools,” Gietzen said.

The full Senate could vote on this bill as early as this week. Bejar is confident it will pass there, but he recognized more work will have to be done in the House for it to pass.

The small likelihood of the bill passing in the House has brought some relief to Waco ISD officials.

“We don't think it's going to get the votes in the House, and so beyond that, we think vouchers are a bad idea and have a crippling effect on public schools and because public schools are so important to getting children education,” Gietzen said.

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