The Texas Tribune convened a panel Thursday morning to discuss one of the top education issues of this legislative session: private school vouchers. Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick have made this a priority issue for lawmakers.
The panel comprised Laura Colangelo of the Texas Private Schools Association, Randal Steinheuser of Young Americans for Liberty; Scott Muri, Ector County ISD superintendent, and Michelle Smith of Raise Your Hand Texas.
While pointing out that the current voucher proposals are not technically “vouchers,” but typically structured as “education savings accounts,” the two proponents of implementing a system that would allow public funds to flow to private schools were adamant that such a program would not hurt public schools. Muri and Smith disagreed, with Smith referring to a recent secretly recorded phone call of a TEA official acknowledging that vouchers would take students – and the money that follows them – out of the system.
Much of the conversation centered on the accountability, or lack thereof, for private schools that would accept public funds. Private schools are very resistant to any government intrusion into their operations, which has been a sticking point for those on both sides of the debate. Any voucher program adopted in Texas is unlikely to include requirements regarding performance or compliance with special education laws applicable to public schools, for example.
Watch the video here.