Why does the Coalition for Public Schools oppose private school vouchers?
There are many reasons, but the #1 reason is CHILDREN. Tax money to fund private school vouchers would be taken away from public schools, which are already underfunded. Children who remain in cash-strapped public schools would be hurt by vouchers. We also believe Texas taxpayers cannot afford to finance private education as well as public education. Continued discussion of private school vouchers is just a political distraction from the state's top priority: providing high quality neighborhood public schools that meet the educational needs of every Texas child.
Why not just do a voucher pilot project?
Vouchers are a bad idea, and limited tax funds should not be used to pilot test a bad idea. Voucher pilot projects in other states have demonstrated lackluster performance, and the privately-funded voucher pilot in San Antonio has harmed children and schools in the Edgewood ISD.
Would vouchers empower parents as consumers to compare private schools and then enroll their child in whichever one they choose?
No. Saying vouchers would facilitate "parental choice" for private schools is a mirage and a false promise. The "choice" is really made by private school admissions committees, which choose which children to accept and which to reject. Even with a voucher, the tuition cost at the best private schools would be out of the reach of low-income parents.
Would vouchers create a "competitive marketplace" that would stimulate improvements in Texas public schools?
Competition among schools and adults won't lead to excellence. There is no established relationship between competition and effective teaching. Indeed, men and women who become educators don't do so to compete with each other. Paradoxically, vouchers would weaken the competitive edge of public schools by taking away financial resources, the best students, and involved parents. In addition, there is no fair competition when "competitors" play by different rules. Public schools have to accept all applicants; private schools don't. Private schools are not required to provide transportation, special education, bilingual education, free and reduced price lunches, and many other programs that public schools must provide. Public schools are extensively regulated and private schools are not.
Would private schools that accept tax-funded tuition vouchers become subject to government regulation?
Yes. In addition to financial accountability, private schools accepting publicly-funded vouchers should expect regulation in areas such as admission criteria and pre-enrollment testing, TAAS testing, tuition and fees, transportation, dismissal practices, criminal background checks on employees, and school accreditation. Legislation proposed in Texas would require private schools to hold a lottery to select which voucher students to admit.
Would vouchers help to improve student achievement?
At this moment, there is no credible evidence that students participating in voucher experiments at private schools are achieving at higher levels than those in public schools.
Do parents have choices now if they are not satisfied with their child's public school?
Public school choice is widely available in Texas, and options continue to grow within the public schools. Magnet schools, intra-district and inter-district student transfers, open-enrollment campuses, charter schools, schools within schools, evening high schools, and school to work programs are examples of choice alternatives within the public system. Urban school districts are especially providing many public school alternatives for parents. For example, in Houston ISD 36,000 students transferred to other public schools in 1998. To whatever extent "competition" might be useful, such competition already exists through the many choice options within the public schools. Parents can work with their elected school board members to establish or expand public school choice.
Some lobby groups say all students who attend public schools rated "low-performing" should get a voucher to attend a private school. What's wrong with that?
The Texas Accountability System--which includes TAAS testing and school ratings--was established to strengthen public schools. The testing and ratings were not created to determine eligibility for private school vouchers and should not be subverted for that special interest purpose. Our state's Accountability System is nationally renown because it works for school improvement. Most schools rated "low-performing" only have that designation for one year, because communities rally around those campuses and direct extra resources, expertise, and energy to overcoming problems with student learning, dropouts, and attendance. The Texas Education Agency reports that statewide only 14 traditional neighborhood public schools were rated low-performing in both 1999-2000 and 2000-2001. Specific reasons those 14 schools were rated low-performing are: Dropout rates above 6%--4 high schools Less than 50% of student subgroups passing the Writing section of the TAAS--3 schools Less than 50% of students passing the Math section of the TAAS--5 schools Less than 50% of one student subgroup passing the Reading section of the TAAS--1 school Less than 50% of two student subgroups passing both Math and Writing sections of the TAAS--1 school NOTE: Schools can be rated low-performing if the passing rate on any TAAS section is less than 50% of any subgroup of students--African American, Hispanic, Economically Disadvantaged, or White. The Texas Accountability System shines a spotlight on specific shortcomings so local school leaders can quickly solve academic achievement or dropout problems. Proposed legislation would give a tuition voucher to every child assigned to attend a campus rated "low-performing," not just those students who themselves are under-performing. This would allow headmasters to "cherry-pick" the most academically able students to admit to their private academies.
One proposed bill says any disadvantaged child in the six largest school districts who fails a section of the TAAS test should get a voucher to private school. What's wrong with that?
The TAAS test was designed to pinpoint student academic weaknesses so public school teachers can help each child to succeed. Texas public schools have myriad strategies and resources for helping children who don't pass a section of the TAAS, including in-class and after-school tutoring, summer school, diagnostic testing, assistance for children with learning disabilities or limited English proficiency, customized computer-assisted instruction, and more. There is no need to turn children over to private schools so they can get assistance to pass the TAAS test.
Do Texans support private school vouchers?
NO! Polls show a majority of Texans want excellent public schools in every neighborhood, not vouchers. Poll respondents say they prefer school improvement strategies such as smaller class sizes, more qualified teachers, and improved reading programs over vouchers.
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