AUSTIN (CBS11) – Hundreds of teachers from North Texas traveled to the State Capitol Monday to rally against state-funded education savings accounts.
Senate Bill 3, dubbed the School Choice Bill, would give families who opt out of public schools thousands of dollars that they could use for private schools, religious schools, as well as specialized tutoring.
For families above 200 percent of the poverty level, SB3 would put $6,000 into a student’s education savings account. For families below 200 percent of the poverty rate, the funding would increase to more than $7,000 per year per student, and special needs students would receive additional money.
Teachers at Monday’s rally said these savings accounts would take funding away from public schools, much like a voucher program would.
“We don’t have enough money now,” said Dallas middle school teacher Lynn Patterson. “Any loss of money would make it very difficult to prepare these students for the high-tech jobs of the future.”
Patterson, a computer teacher at Storey Middle School in Oak Cliff, said she’s using computers that are more than ten years old in her class. He said her students can’t afford to see a cutback on technology funding.
However, bill co-author Senator Don Huffines (R-Dallas) said the teacher unions are exaggerating the impact SB3 would have on public school funding.
The Dallas senator said even at the highest enrollment projections for the saving accounts, 100,000 students, the funding impact would be minimal on public schools. There are currently 5.3 million students in Texas public schools.
“This is not whole sale evacuation from public schools,” he said. “What this does is it forces the superintendents and teachers to pay attention to the students to make sure the school is working. It’s competition.”
Senator Huffines said this bill will provide choices to students in failing public schools who feel trapped.
State lawmakers have unsuccessfully tried to passing voucher programs in years past. Many of the top education policy lawmakers in the House have said they will not pass a voucher program this session