In the world of education, the term “school choice” carries a lot of controversy wherever it is spoken. Parents wanting the freedom to enroll their children in a school other than the public school in their district cheer for school choice programs. Public school districts worry that school choice programs will cause their funding to disappear. Private schools wonder if government funding will result in the government forcing them to comply with laws they are now exempt from. Not all school choice programs are the same. Learn more about the major school choice programs in America and which one involves Texas education.
Education Savings Accounts (ESAs)
Texas is not one of the six states currently using ESA funds. ESA funds allow families to take their children out of public schools and put them in private schools using public money put into government-authorized savings funds. The families can withdraw the money to use on private school tuition or a different type of learning expense.
Vouchers give parents an option to choose a private school instead of a public school. The district is allotted a certain amount of money, which then gets distributed to pay full or partial private school tuition for families who are chosen to receive the voucher. Fifteen states have school voucher programs, and Texas is not one of them. Will Texas join the ranks? While public school districts might not want their funds to go to school vouchers, studies show that school vouchers save taxpayers money and educate more children. It might be a wise road to follow.
In this school choice program, taxpayers can receive tax credits when they donate to nonprofits that provide private school scholarships. Eighteen states already have tax-credit scholarship programs. Texas might be the next one. Two bills were filed that allow Texas insurance companies to donate some of their tax liability to a scholarship program. The scholarship money would be used to allow children in low-income families, children with special needs, children in foster care, and children of those in active military duty to attend a school other than the district school. These families could also use the money to provide additional learning support while their children remain in public school. Who will get the scholarship funds? They will be distributed according to greatest financial or educational need. The goal of the program is to help provide access for all Texas schoolchildren to get the education they need. Currently, in the eighteen states that have tax-credit scholarship programs, 271,728 recipients received funds.
Individual Tax Credits and Deductions
These individual tax credits do not go to a scholarship fund; rather, they can be put directly toward government-approved educational expenses, such as private school tuition. Eight states currently use this type of school choice program. Texas is not one of them.
Which school choice program is best?
School choice programs have been around awhile. The tax-credit scholarship programs began 20 years ago. Although the programs are usually successful, and parents who receive the funds claim to like the freedom to choose their child’s school, state governments are slow in joining the programs. Each of the above programs help children receive better educations. There are claims that school choice programs drive the public school districts to also improve. It seems like a win-win situation. However, private schools do have cause to be leery of government funding. They may then lose their independence from state education laws. The Texas Private School Association favors a Tax-Credit Scholarship program because it gives some families educational choice while not limiting the freedoms of private schools.
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