Can you hear the drumbeat for “spend more” to “save our schools” (and don’t forget – it’s “for the children”)? It will get a whole lot louder the closer we get to the primary election, which is now a mere 40 days away. “Spend more” isn’t a solution. Options for a child’s education, however, are a solution that can benefit everyone.
Toward the end of the last legislative session, an idea was presented by State Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stephenville) to create taxpayer savings grants. This is a voluntary statewide program that would allow a child to transfer from public to private schools, using a Taxpayer Savings Grant to pay for the tuition. The estimated savings to the state would be $3429 for every student receiving a grant (the grant itself would be $5143, or the amount of tuition at a private school, whichever is less). With no income requirement for families, every student would be eligible, and parents and guardians would make the final determination about which school offers the best education choice for their children. Total, this program could save Texas about $2 billion, money that could go back into the public education budget.
The measure did not pass in the 82nd Legislature, but the effort to pass it in the next session is already underway. Candidates for state legislative office have received detailed information on this plan from the Taxpayer Savings Grant coalition, including copies of the studies showing the potential benefits to the state to help them make an informed decision. They are armed with the information they need, and are being given a chance to take a stand on the issue now.
On the primary ballot, Republicans will have a chance to also make clear their stance on education choices. There is a ballot proposition that read “The state should fund education by allowing dollars to follow the child instead of the bureaucracy, through a program which allows parents the freedom to choose their child’s school, public or private, while also saving significant taxpayer dollars.” Voting “yes” on this proposition will send a message to the Legislature that this is important to parents across Texas.
We need to work on making as many education choices as possible available and financially feasible for families in Texas. Even if this was the only successful measure in education reform, taxpayer savings grants would be a win-win for parents and for the state of Texas (not to mention, everyday taxpayers!). Given that students have individual needs that no one education model or solution is going to universally address, I believe strongly that parents need options. The question now is whether voters will fall for the usual “spend more” rhetoric, or if they will choose candidates willing to discuss new options for education in our state. This is one of those options worth taking a serious look at.