The case against school vouchers

Join us in standing up for public schools!
Sign up to get involved or text RAISEMYHAND to 40649

Take Action!

Vouchers hurt our Texas public schools and harm students by diverting state money to private vendors. When this happens, financial transparency and accountability go out the window because  private schools are not subject to the same state regulations and standards as public schools. Additionally, vouchers leave Texans behind and do not improve student outcomes. The truth of the matter is, research shows voucher programs do not live up to their promises. Learn the facts behind school voucher programs and how they can hurt Texans.

Our public schools and students shouldn’t be politicized. Well-funded opposition to public education uses locally-elected school districts, public school administrators, teachers, and students as their latest battleground, working to dismantle and defund public education. Don’t be misled. This politicization of public education is just the latest tactic to advance school vouchers.

Myths and Facts About School Vouchers.

Myth #1: Vouchers result in better outcomes for students.

FACT: School vouchers are ineffective and result in declines in student performance.

Research repeatedly finds that vouchers do not improve student achievement. Recent studies of Louisiana, Indiana, and Ohio voucher programs find that students using vouchers experienced worse academic outcomes than their public school peers. Texas consistently outperforms states with voucher programs on the NAEP national assessment.

Source: Read the reports on Louisiana, Indiana, and Ohio.

Myth #2: School vouchers simply allow education dollars to flow with a child.

FACT: When a student exits a public school fixed costs like teacher salaries remain.

When a student leaves a public school, fixed costs such as teacher salaries, utilities, and transportation don’t decrease. Vouchers leave less funding for most students, which hurts our neighborhood schools. In Texas, the cost of losing seven students is equivalent to one teacher’s salary and benefits. Despite additional funding provided in 2019, Texas still ranks in the bottom ten states in per-pupil funding.

Source: Read Education Week’s Quality Counts 2021 School Finance rankings.

Myth #3: School vouchers can be easily regulated and monitored.

FACT: Transparency is a challenge with voucher programs and taxpayer dollars are often misused. Read the @orlandosentinel investigation on the problems within FL’s voucher program.

Transparency is a challenge with voucher school programs. As a result, taxpayer dollars are often misused. In 2017, an in-depth investigative project found numerous instances of problematic hiring practices and financial issues within Florida’s voucher program.  Yet in 2021 the Florida Legislature passed an additional $200 million voucher expansion that further limits transparency over the spending of taxpayer dollars. 

Source: Read Schools Without Rules: An Orlando Sentinel Investigation. Read this article on Florida’s voucher expansion bill.

Myth #4: School vouchers can be limited and won’t cost much.

FACT: Vouchers programs like the one in Ohio often begin small and balloon out of control. Read more here.

Vouchers often begin as a small program with limited funds that target a particular student population (e.g., Special Education). However, efforts to expand funding and student eligibility quickly follow. When Ohio established its first voucher program in 1995, eligible students could receive up to $2,500. Ohio’s current EdChoice program offers up to $5,500 for students in grades K-8 and up to $7,500 for high schoolers. Between 2006 and 2013, increasingly relaxed eligibility requirements allowed enrollment to increase from 3,141 to 18,080 students. Now, school districts are suing the state for allocating more funding (per student) to its voucher program than its public school districts.

Source: Read the article on the Ohio lawsuit. Read the Policy Matters Ohio report for background on Ohio’s first voucher program. Read Fordham Institutes’ report on the EdChoice program.

Myth #5: Families need private school options because private schools are better than the public schools.

FACT: Public schools outperform private schools.

In his 2014 book, The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools, Christopher Lubienski, a researcher with Indiana University, found that when you account for demographics, public schools actually perform better than private schools. A 2018 study out of the University of Virginia found that by simply controlling for sociodemographic characteristics, private school enrollment provided no additional benefits to low-income children in urban settings.

Source: Read Dr. Lubienski’s book or the current article in Newsweek on private schools vs. public schools. 

Myth #6: Vouchers help low-income students.

FACT: School vouchers leave families scrambling to cover private school costs.

While the amount of a voucher in each state varies, it almost always falls short of a private school’s cost. On average, vouchers offer $4,600 a year, while the average cost of private school tuition is $12,350. Low-income families are often left scrambling to pay the remaining tuition amount, and vouchers simply become a tax subsidy for wealthy families.

Source: Read the article on vouchers and private school tuition.

Myth #7: Vouchers help students with special needs.

FACT: School vouchers require students with special needs to give up their civil rights.

Vouchers require special education students to give up their federally protected rights to inclusive classrooms, certified teachers, and an individual education plan. Special education students risk losing crucial services, being charged additional fees, or paying higher tuition costs to attend specialized private schools.

Source: Read this report by the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

Myth #8: School vouchers are popular with voters and easy to pass.

FACT: Voucher supporters have tried many ways to pass a voucher in Texas. The fact is they remain unpopular here in the Lone Star State no matter what branding tactics are used. Learn more by reading “Why Does a State Like Texas Reject School Vouchers?”

Whether it’s calling them “grants,” “tax credits,” and “scholarships,” or by creating “debit cards,” and “savings accounts,” voucher supporters have tried many tactics to pass a voucher in Texas. Any use of state funds for private educational purposes is a voucher.

type of vouchers

Myth #9: Parents don’t have enough choice in public schools

Our public schools provide a wide range of choices allowing students and parents to customize education to individual interests and needs. Choices include numerous programming and campus options.

FACT: Texas public schools already provide families a wide variety of programming and campus choice options.

public school choice and opportunity

Myth #10: School vouchers are a good use of public money.

FACT: Public schools are the only option that offers real choice and accountability for parents and taxpayers alike. Learn more about vouchers here.

Texas has for decades been a leader in holding public schools accountable. Parents and other stakeholders deserve consistent and comparable information about school performance.

Myth #11: Texas would support a voucher.

FACT: Texas has rejected vouchers time and again.

Texans know the value of their public schools and have rejected voucher proposals for decades. In 2021, the Texas House of Representatives voted 115-29 to prohibit state funds from being used for a voucher. State funds must remain focused on the public schools that serve all students.

Myth #12: Vouchers are sound public policy.

FACT: A debate over school vouchers will prevent progress toward the bigger goals we have for our state.

In the 2019 and 2021 legislative sessions, our state leaders wisely took vouchers off the table to focus on other goals. We need to tell lawmakers now is not the time to take our attention or resources away from public education. School funding and teacher shortages must be addressed. There is no state recovery from COVID without a public school recovery.

Accomplishments For Texas Public Schools

Increased overall funding
Full-day pre-K
Teacher salary increase
Dual language programs

Stimulus funding
COVID learning loss programs
Health and safety improvements
Better connectivity

Myth #13: Texans have lost faith in public schools

FACT: Polls confirm public schools are and always will be the pride of Texas. In fact, research by @CharlesButtFdn show most Texas parents rate their schools highly and would choose to stay.

Polls consistently show that most Texas parents do not approve of school vouchers. These same parents rate their schools highly and would choose to stay in their public schools. Texans trust their teachers and expect their public schools to help students succeed, power the state’s economy and build a brighter future for our state.

This is what Texans are saying they appreciate about their public schools

“Advanced academics” 

“Excellent teachers”

“High graduation rates”

“They prepared me for college.”

“Friday Night Lights” 

“They reflect the community.”

“Their doors are open to all.”

“It’s the heart and soul of our neighborhood.”