Texas Education

Lawmakers in Austin are now debating SB 276, a bill that would provide school choice and educational freedom to all Texas students. It would allow parents who opt out of public schools to take with them 60% of the money the state would otherwise spend on their child—about $5,200—to pay private-school tuition. The rest of the money, roughly $3,000 per student, would go back into the state treasury.

There are a couple of alternative uses for those $3,000 than just dumping them back into the general pot.

Texas’ schooling, as elsewhere, is generally paid for with personal property taxes. Several years ago, Texas decided to consolidate those taxes, though, and redistribute them state-wide, rather than leaving them in the local community whose members had paid the taxes.

Thus: rather than sending the money to the general pot, leave the money with the school whose student(s) just left. This will increase the money available to be spent on the remaining students’ education. Of course, I’m naively assuming those $3k will be spent efficiently and for the benefit of the students….

Alternatively, the money could be earmarked, in keeping with the intent of that earlier property tax consolidation move, for the poorest of our school districts, giving them an increased opportunity to teach their students. Here, too, I’m making that same naïve assumption.

There is an alternative use for those $5,200, too. Don’t limit them to private-school tuition. Let the money be used for voucher payments/tuition at any school with room that the parents might prefer: parochial, charter, better performing public schools. Let the money be used, too, to defray parents’ costs of homeschooling.

Sending the $3k to the state’s general treasury, though, ought not at all be a deal breaker for this move, neither should the proposed commitment of the $5k to private-school tuition: SB 276 still is a major move forward. There’s plenty of time to come back again in the next legislative session to improve the move and to go farther. We’ll even have two school years of data to mull over as we consider the next move.

Now, there’s a thought.

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