Governor Abbott is touring the state touting legislation that would establish education savings accounts by which money would follow the student should they choose alternatives to public school.
The idea of “vouchers” or government funding going to subsidize students who choose private or home school options has been around for years, and for years it has stalled in the legislature. There are several points of controversy. Teachers’ unions argue that such programs “take money away from public schools,” without admitting that the decrease in enrollment necessarily reduces public school costs. Some education agencies argue that private schools have “no accountability,” without pointing out that a private school is accountable to the free market. If a private school is bad at their job, people quit sending their children. Try enforcing some accountability with your local public school and let me know how that turns out. When a public school is bad at its job, it gets more funding.
Some Texans are in favor. They’ve grown weary of the public school system and have chosen to educate their children in other ways, all the while paying taxes to support the public system that they don’t use. Others are suspicious, believing that with government funding comes government strings attached. If you take the government money to send your kid to private school, you let the government into your business and have to abide by their terms.
The Texas Tribune published results of a poll this week with the headline, “Plurality of Texas voters say they support school voucher-like program.” The survey showed that 46% of persons polled supported education savings accounts, with 41% opposed. These results are similar to those from an equivalent poll in April 2022. The issue ranked eighth out of ten education issues prioritized by poll participants. Even with such unremarkable support, the Tribune stretched to make a positive headline.
Governor Abbott is traveling the state pushing “education freedom” and “parental empowerment” at local meetings, many in rural areas or rural hubs like Amarillo. He emphasized that no one knows what’s best for a child to succeed than their parents, and highlighted the need to expand school choice options through state-funded Education Savings Accounts to all Texas students. He also noted that a majority of urban, suburban, and rural Texans support bolstering parents’ rights as the primary decision makers in their child’s education.
I personally have four children. One’s graduated from the public system, another graduates this year, and two more are just starting in public school. We’ve educated our older children with a combination of public, private, and homeschool. We’ve struggled to pay for private school, and also struggled to keep the kids at home instead of having both adults in the workforce. My wife has worked as a private school teacher, and now teaches at a public school. While this experience doesn’t give me special qualifications, it does give me experience.
I’m selfishly interested in ways to gain more control over the content my children learn, and the idea of perhaps using some of the tax dollars I pay to support our educational efforts in ways we like better than the public school down the street. Even so, many of the arguments both for and against resonate with me. I’m somewhat hesitant, but in the end the legislature will (or won’t) do what it does. Most major moves are experimental to a degree, and we’ll just have to try a while and see how things work out.
Most people understand the things I’ve outlined to this point. There’s an issue. Some support it and some don’t, and both sides are using both reason and emotional appeal. The governor is on board, but the public sentiment is barely beyond neutral. For this particular issue, although most people are only casually interested, the governor has designated the issue as a legislative priority and is personally (with state funds, BTW) traveling around promoting the issue.
Let’s look at the Texit issue and see how it compares. Polling shows 66% of registered voters are in favor. The issue carried on the party platform by 90%. The organization promoting Texit has 445K registered supporters. There are arguments for and against, and both sides are using both rational and emotional appeals. There have been bills filed on this issue before, and there are legislators on board with the idea. Texit is bold and not without inherent risks, and it’s also going to take some working out of things before the final outcome is settled.
So why is it that a low polling issue like education savings accounts gets a legislative priority, a governor’s tour, and favorable media coverage while a popular issue like Texit gets mocked in the media and requires consistent citizen activism to make even small incremental gains? It comes down to fear. The governor, the legislators, the mainstream media, and the far left are afraid of freedom. They’re afraid that given an opportunity to succeed independently that Texas will fail. Some people see “what if” as an opportunity, while others see it as a threat.
As we go through the season of Texas’ independence events, consider what our predecessors went through and what they fought for. Those at the Alamo knew they’d die, but fought to give their homeland a chance at freedom. Those at Washington on the Brazos knew that they took a risk by choosing independence over servitude, but they did it anyway. Those at San Jacinto knew they were outnumbered, but they struck at an opportune time and secured a victory.
The times for us are no different. There’s a large force lined up opposed to Texas’ freedom, preferring instead the bonds of servitude. There are patriots who stand with us, come what may. We are in many ways outgunned and outmanned, but we make up for it with grit and determination. We see before us an opportunity for freedom, self determination, and prosperity. Texit is inevitable, the only question is whether it’ll be sooner or later.