Texas lawmakers want to expand school vouchers this session

Will Texas lawmakers pass school vouchers this session under the umbrella of Parental Choice? Governor Abbott supports vouchers using public tax dollars for private education. 

An associate professor says not so fast. UT Austin Associate Professor David DeMatthews wrote a guest editorial Sunday in The Statesman.

"The choice that vouchers present is a farce. No rational Texan wants to choose an education policy that does not deliver results and also defunds public education, promotes discrimination against children with disabilities, and uses tax dollars to subsidize tuition for wealthy families who already send their children to private schools. Vouchers are a scam because that's exactly what will happen if passed in this legislative session," said DeMatthews.

Randan Steinhauser, the National School Choice Director at Young Americans for Liberty, and Democratic Analyst Ed Espinoza joined FOX 7 Austin's Mike Warren to discuss.

MIKE WARREN: Randan, beginning with you in that editorial, pretty harsh words for school choice advocates. How do you respond to that kind of criticism?

RANDAN STEINHAUSER: Yeah. You know, it's just creating this false boogeyman of the idea of giving parents choice when it comes to how their children are educated is somehow bad. Parents know their children better than anyone. We've seen numerous states enact school choice policies that allow their children to be educated in a variety of settings. It's no longer a one size fits all education system that families want. They want a diverse set of options, whether that means private schools, homeschooling, virtual schools, or a variety of all of those things. So we know that right now, more than ever, parents are desperate for options, and it's a really exciting time for Texas, and hopefully we'll get done this session.

MIKE WARREN: Ed Espinoza, that editorial, is it right? Are school vouchers a farce?

ED ESPINOZA: What that editorial does is expresses what a majority of Texans currently believe and have believed for years. Now, let's talk about this idea of parental choice, which was formerly called school choice, which is always been a cloak for vouchers. Vouchers are not popular in Texas. But Texas public schools are something that parents have reviled for a while. And when you talk about how it's connected to high school football, you begin to understand why people are so connected to their high schools. Now, should parents have a choice? Yes, they should. And they already do. The question is, should the taxpayers fund private school funding or any other kind of school funding? That's not a public school. And that's where the poll numbers take.

MIKE WARREN: Randan, do vouchers help publication public education or hurt it?

RANDAN STEINHAUSER: Bottom line. You know that that question in and of itself, you're talking about the system. You're talking about the brick and mortar public schools. We need to recognize that. We need to talk about what's best for students. We do not need to force any student to attend a school that is not working for them. Even the best public school is not the right fit for every child. And to make a decision about a child's future based on a football program or based on just this neighborhood school down the street does a disservice to that child. And we believe that every family in Texas should be able to use their tax dollars to send their child to an educational environment that works for them.

MIKE WARREN: Ed Espinoza, why do you think the GOP is pushing for school vouchers?

ED ESPINOZA: Well, look, I think that the GOP is against public education. That is not something that is a surprise. We've seen that for years. And again, parents already have the choice to send their kids to whatever school they want to. The question is, are our vastly underfunded public schools going to suffer by taking additional funding away and send it to other nonpublic schools? And the answer, of course, is yes. The schools in Texas are underfunded. They have been for a long time. And parents and homeowners are already paying through the nose. But their property taxes to go to schools and the state is still underfunding the public schools. I don't think that this is going to go very far. It's a bad idea and voters don't support it. 

MIKE WARREN: All right. Well, it is going to be a continuing issue. We're out of time for now. So I've got to wrap it up. Randan and Ed, thank you both very much.