Senate Bill 8 Written Testimony by Dr. Michelle Smith

March 22, 2023  

Raise Your Hand Texas submitted the following written testimony in response to the Texas Senate Education Committee Hearing on March 22, 2023, regarding Senate Bill 8. Raise Your Hand Texas will continue to keep the public informed through written and invited/public testimony on the issues related to public education in Texas.

Written Testimony by Dr. Michelle Smith

Raise Your Hand Texas

Before the Texas Senate Committee on Education  

The Honorable Brandon Creighton, Chair

March 22, 2023

Key Points

  • Raise Your Hand Texas opposes any form of school voucher, including the provision of Article 2 in SB 8 that creates an Education Savings Account
  • Raise Your Hand Texas does support the continued conversation on parental rights and responsibilities within our public schools, but this policy conversation does not need to be linked to the creation of a private school or vendor voucher program 
  • SB 8 clearly acknowledges vouchers divert public education funds to private schools and vendors with its provision providing $10,000 to certain schools districts that lose students to the voucher program
  • SB 8 clearly acknowledges that private schools and vendors will not be required to comply with federal and state protections for students with disabilities, protections public schools are required to offer 

Position:  Oppose, Written

As Texas school districts face record inflation and an ongoing teacher shortage, the Texas Legislature should not invest its time and resources in programs that fail to support all of our 5.4 million public school students. This includes all forms of voucher programs, including the Article 2 provision in SB 8 by Senator Creighton creating an Education Savings Account. 

Under this proposed voucher program, each eligible student would receive $8,000 annually for private school tuition, instructional materials, or educational therapies. In addition to the funds provided to each eligible student’s Education Savings Account, the state would provide school districts under 20,000 students “hold harmless” funding in the amount of  $10,000 for each student using an Education Savings Account and exiting our public schools under this program. This provision only applies to school districts that enroll under 20,000 students. The acknowledgment that voucher programs, like the one being proposed, harm our public schools needs to be underscored and discussed at great length. This program will not only harm the funding for public schools with fewer than 20,000 students, but all of our public schools in the state, including the larger urban and suburban districts not receiving any “hold harmless” support. 

More importantly, voucher programs do not help our students improve academically. Recent research on our country’s longest and largest voucher programs shows that these programs do not improve student test scores or academic achievement over time, including having a positive impact on college enrollment and completion rates for disadvantaged students. Texas should not divert public funds to private vendors who are unaccountable and not required to serve all of our students properly. 

In fact, SB 8 clearly states that private schools and vendors do not have to provide the same education as public schools. Under provisions of this bill, a certified educational assistance organization shall post on the organization’s internet website, and provide each parent who

submits an application for the program, a notice stating private schools are not subject to federal and state laws regarding the provision of educational services to a child with a disability in the same manner as a public school.  

For decades, Texas has been a leader in holding public schools accountable. Parents and other stakeholders deserve consistent and comparable information about school performance. Voucher proposals have not required private schools to serve all students and meet the same accountability standards as public schools.

Raise Your Hand Texas believes state dollars should remain in our public schools. Only public schools serve all students and are required to meet federal standards for those with disabilities or limited English proficiency. Our public schools are equitably funded and held accountable for measurable student results. That is the system that best serves all Texas families and taxpayers.

Tags: testimony vouchers

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