Proposed Voucher Program Stirs Conversation in Lubbock Schools

By Rachel Blevins

Dominant figures within the Trump Administration have voiced support for a voucher program that could bring changes in funding to public and private schools.

The possibility of its implementation is raising concerns among administrators in Lubbock.

Keith Bryant, superintendent of the Lubbock-Cooper Independent School District, said he sees such a program as one that would hurt overall education by resulting in “less funding, no accountability and the discrimination of children at the expense of their education.”

“Few realize that voucher systems were introduced in the 1950s as a way to avoid integration of public schools,” Bryant said. “Vouchers were used to provide Anglo parents a way to pay for private schools instead of having their children be ‘forced’ to attend school with African-American students. I would like to think that the majority of Texas taxpayers are against a system founded on prejudice.”

Linda Merriott, superintendent of Southcrest Christian School in Lubbock, said she believes a voucher program could have some benefits in the form of healthy competition, but it all depends on how it is executed.

Betsy DeVos is the Secretary of Education. She is a proponent of school vouchers. Gage Skidmore/WikiMedia.

“It will give parents a choice where they are in an incompetent district and allow parents of faith to put their child in a classroom that affirms their faith,” Merriott said. “It will allow students who are falling through the cracks find a school that meets their needs.”

Merriott noted that one of the biggest obstacles comes from the question of how a voucher program would hold both public and private schools accountable, when they use different forms of testing, and adhere to different accreditation standards.

“The cons I can think of to a private school will occur if restrictions are placed on a school taking federal or state money,” Merriott said. “I believe many private schools are very capable of meeting the testing requirements but do not feel it is best for students.”

Bryant echoed the concern surrounding the lack of accountability, and said that because public schools in Texas already face both strict regulations on standardized testing scores and lack of funding, any opportunity to take away funds while maintaining the regulations, would only make the problem worse.

“Public schools are being held to higher standards of accountability than ever before, and we are told that money will not fix our issues,” Bryant said. “So, instead of funding us appropriately, more accountability is placed on our schools. How is this fair? Public schools get money and face increased accountability, while vouchers would send public money to private schools with no accountability requirement whatsoever for their money.”

Stephen Cox, superintendent of Trinity Christian School in Lubbock, said he believes it is possible for a voucher program to be implemented that uses alternative methods of funding, without taking away from public education.

“I do firmly believe it is possible to provide a school choice measure that does not pull funds from public schools, and most of us in private education are not in favor of any measure that would have profound negative impacts on the communities we try to serve,” Cox said. “School choice must be implemented in a way that facilities better coordination and working relationships between the private and public sectors.”

In contrast, Bryant argued that the program would still be “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” and would end up “cutting desperately needed funds from already-underfunded school districts across the state.”

“While many will argue that funding for a voucher program would come from a budget entirely separate from the public education fund, the truth of the matter is that any separate fund would be a percentage removed from the overall education budget,” Bryant said.

Cox said he hopes that no matter the outcome, parents will continue to be involved in their child’s education.

“I think parents should be more intentional about being involved in their student’s education regardless of whether they are in private or public education,” Cox said. “They are the absolute best predictor of their student’s success. School choice is secondary to that.”

Click on the picture to view an interactive map featuring the states that have already implemented different forms of voucher programs.

Students with disabilities would also be impacted by the program. Click below to a video detailing the obstacles they currently face.

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