Gary G. Godsey is the executive director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE), Texas’ largest network of educators. We are pleased to bring you this op-ed about the importance of public education.
Vouchers Make for Bad Public Education Policy
By Gary G. Godsey, ATPE Executive Director
As expected during this legislative session, many are joining the drum beat for privatization of public schools. Such bills have been filed each session since 2001 usually with such innocuous sounding names like the “Taxpayer Savings Grant Program,” the name of a piece of legislation currently filed in the Senate. All of these bills are based on the myth that private school vouchers are the panacea to cure what ails public education.
The fact is, vouchers divert taxpayer dollars to private schools that do not face the same accountability standards required of public schools. Two of the biggest fallacies regarding vouchers are that they provide choice and that they improve opportunities for children from low-income families. However, the choice that really matters is the choice made by private schools regarding whether to admit a student. Vouchers do little to help the poor because they often do not cover the full cost of tuition, fees, uniforms, books and transportation.
Many of those leading the charge for privatization of public education do so under the claim that Texas schools simply don’t keep pace with the rest of the country. The problem with that argument is that the facts paint a starkly different picture.
Examination of 2014 data from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) shows that in every major ethnic group Texas students significantly outscored their peers nationally on the 8th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science test, with the states’ African-American students earning the fourth highest score in the country compared to other African-American students.
Texas students who are Asian or English language learners also significantly outscored their peer group nationally. And Texans substantially outperformed their peer groups from other large, diverse states like California, Florida, Illinois and New York. Among Hispanic students only five states earned higher average scores than Texas. Among white students, only six states surpassed the performance of Texas students.
And when it comes to preparing students for college, Texas is more than holding its own. In 2014 the ACT composite scores for white and African-American students were at an all-time high. Among Texas Hispanic students, the 2014 ACT participation rate was 39 percent, which is more than double the national percentage of Hispanics tested.
When adjusted for inflation and student growth, the state of Texas is spending less per pupil than it did in 2006. And with the current school funding lawsuit making its way through the courts, now is not the time to divert more money from already underfunded public schools.