Education Savings Accounts

Education Savings Accounts (ESA’s) are a method of diverting state taxpayer dollars to parents of schoolchildren in the form of an account or debit card to be used for educational expenditures (tuition, curriculum, etc.).

Special Session of the 85th Texas Legislature

HB 52 by Simmons provides an Individualized Education Plan Account (IEPA) type voucher for students with a disability. The voucher provides 90% of the funding the child would have generated in a public school.  The money would come from the Foundation School Program.

HB 52 Talking Points may be found here.

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Regular Session of the 85th Texas Legislature

Committee Substitute House Bill 21

House Bill 21 is a school finance bill that passed the House and was sent to the Senate. When it was heard in the Senate Education Committee a voucher was added to the bill as a committee substitute. CSHB 21  provides an ESA voucher for students with a disability including students identified as special education and 504. The voucher provides 90% of the funding the child would have generated in a public school.  The money will come from the Foundation School Program.  We oppose this voucher on the following grounds:

ESA’s takes taxpayer funds directly from public schools and provides no real funding

With money coming directly from the Foundation School Program, ESA’s siphon money directly from public schools and divert it to be used in private, religious and home schools. Aside from the 450,000 special education students in Texas, the inclusion of 504 students opens the door for any student with a “life impairment” (e.g. asthma, hearing loss, anxiety, etc.) and could cost billions of dollars.  Besides, the current Senate budget does not fund CSHB 21 and doesn’t provide any real funding for Texas public schools. With Texas public schools already being underfunded, Texas can’t afford the voucher in CSHB 21.

Parents and students give up their federal protections under ESA’s

Students with disabilities in special education receiving a voucher under CSHB 21 would give up their federal protections upon exiting the public school.  This includes their rights to due process under admissions, review and dismissal  (ARD) committees and other federal protections.

No accountability under ESA’s

Private and religious schools that would access taxpayer dollars through CSHB 21 are not accountable to the state in the same way as public schools. CSHB 21 would allow these schools to receive taxpayer monies while not meeting the same curriculum nor fiscal requirements of a Texas public school.  Texans overwhelmingly believe that schools that receive tax dollars should be accountable for how they are spent, but the schools that receive vouchers would not be accountable to taxpayers.

ESA’s violate the separation of church and state and the first amendment

CSHB 21 provides monies that can be used in any private or religious school. Earlier ESA’s that this was modeled from provided no disallowance for religious content or services. Taxpayer funds used for religious content or services violates the first amendment.

Downloadable CSHB 21 Talking Points (CFPS).

Downloadable CSHB 21 LETTER rev3.

Senate Bill 3

SB 3 (Taylor, L.) is both an ESA and a tax credit voucher which allows certain businesses or individuals to count donations to scholarships against their tax liability.  SB 3 allows a tax credit against an entity’s state premium insurance tax liability.

The Coalition for Public Schools opposes SB 3 on the following grounds:

SB 3 diverts taxpayer funds away from the public trust to private, religious and corporate entities

Under SB 3, taxpayer funds may be used to fund tuition to a private, religious or corporation-operated school.  With Texas currently in the bottom quarter of states for per-pupil funding, Texans cannot afford to pay for a parallel system of education – one for the affluent who want to subsidize tuition at a private school – and one for over 90% of Texas public schoolchildren.  If limits are expanded and the approximately 600,000 homeschooled and privately schooled children are eventually funded, the additional cost would be in the billions of dollars.

SB 3 provides no accountability for taxpayer dollars

Private and religious schools that would access taxpayer dollars through SB 3 are not accountable to the state in the same way as public schools. SB 3 would allows these schools to receive taxpayer monies while not meeting the same curriculum nor fiscal requirements of a Texas public school.  Texans overwhelmingly believe that schools that receive tax dollars should be accountable for how they are spent, but the schools that receive tax credit vouchers would not be accountable to taxpayers.

SB 3 is an entitlement for the affluent

The eligibility requirements in SB 3 are designed to provide greater access to those with income over 200% of the free and reduced lunch eligibility level.  These families have greater ability to provide supplemental tuition and transportation to the private schools they want to attend.  The voucher does not provide as much opportunity for access to those below the 200% level or to those parents with students with disabilities – whose educational costs are typically higher.

SB 3 is an expansion of government

In order to ensure compliance with the educational spending requirements of SB 3, the comptroller’s office will have to create administrative positions, assign staff, and conduct audits of parents’ educational expenditures.  If the program were to grow, additional staff would be needed.  SB 3 will result in the expansion of the government in Austin, throughout the state and potentially into the lives of private and homeschool parents and children.

SB 3 violates the separation of church and state

SB 3 states that “the content or religious nature of a product or service may not be considered in determining whether a payment for the product or service is an expense allowed” under the bill. Taxpayer funds could be used to purchase curriculum with any religious orientation in violation of the establishment clause of the first amendment.

Downloadable SB 3 Voucher Talking Points ONE PAGER

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House Bill 1335

HB 1335 (Simmons) provides an ESA type voucher for students with a disability, kids in the DFPS system, or victims of a variety of crimes or abuse. The voucher provides 90% of the funding the child would have generated in a public school.  The money will come from the Foundation School Program.

The Coalition for Public Schools opposes this voucher on the following grounds:

HB 1335 takes taxpayer funds directly from public schools

With money coming directly from the Foundation School Program, HB 1335 siphons money directly from public schools and diverts it to be used in private, religious and home schools.  With Texas public schools already being underfunded, Texas can’t afford the voucher in HB 1335.

HB 1335 violates the separation of church and state and the first amendment

Like SB 3 (above), HB 1335 provides that “content or religious nature of a product or service may not be considered in determining whether a payment for the product or service is an expense allowed” under the program.  Taxpayer funds used for religious content or services violates the first amendment.

Parents and students give up their federal protections under HB 1335

Students with disabilities in special education receiving a voucher under HB 1335 would give up their federal protections upon exiting the public school.  This includes their rights to due process under admissions, review and dismissal  (ARD) committees and other federal protections.

No accountability under HB 1335

Private and religious schools that would access taxpayer dollars through HB 1335 are not accountable to the state in the same way as public schools. HB 1335 would allows these schools to receive taxpayer monies while not meeting the same curriculum nor fiscal requirements of a Texas public school.  Texans overwhelmingly believe that schools that receive tax dollars should be accountable for how they are spent, but the schools that receive tax credit vouchers would not be accountable to taxpayers.

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For more information contact Dr. Charles Luke at charlesluke43@gmail.com or by phone at 940-768-8594.