With new interim charges from outgoing Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the state Senate Committee on Education will look at creating tax credits and taxpayer savings grants — both voucher programs — as cornerstones of a new school choice plan that would offer parents an alternative to public education. Are vouchers, which can be used to pay tuition for private and parochial schools, the best way to improve education in Texas, or would they further erode funding for traditional public education?Any government funding to private and parochial schools would give the government access, even if in such a benign way at first, to later step in to control the curriculum and/or religious philosophy according to government ideology. Keep the government out of any of our private institutions, as that would be just another way to lose our freedom to government control. — Eva Snapka, ArlingtonWill all the private and parochial schools that receive taxpayer money be required to meet the same standards as public schools in Texas? Will students at those schools be required to take STAAR standardized tests and end-of-course exams, and will the schools receive ratings from the state? Will their financials be open to the public? It will be both hypocritical and unethical for taxpayer dollars to shift from our already underfunded public schools to private schools that are self-governed and self-evaluated. How will we know if we are getting our money’s worth? — Jackie Ferguson, Fort Worth Thomas Jefferson said, “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of liberty.” All elements of the Texas public have failed public education, but especially administrators, school boards and legislators who have failed to uphold rigorous academic standards, to establish comprehensive curricula and to properly and adequately fund our public schools. Vouchers are yet another step to engineer more failure into the system. — Paul R. Schattman, Arlington If parents want their children to go to a private or parochial school, then they can just pay the tuition and fees. We need to put this money and other money into improving the public school system in Texas. There have been examples of private schools and charter schools in Texas failing and not offering a quality education. We need to provide an educational experience for all Texas residents. — Walter H. Delashmit, Justin The best way to improve our public education is through funding and greater involvement by educators, parents and the community.All public funds available for education must go to public education. This nation’s future lies with education for all. — David Perkins, Fort Worth Those who have the resources for private schools can choose for their children. For those who can’t afford private school, public schools are their only option. Wouldn’t vouchers favor the lower-income families, more so than the wealthy by also giving them a “choice?” I know there are mitigating circumstances; however, it’s hard to understand why allocation of a voucher would not allow parents to become “customers” able to seek the best “value” for their child’s education. Is that not a “step up” for those who can’t afford private schools as well as certain incentive for each public school to become competitive in the marketplace? — Ralph Shelton, ArlingtonTarrant County has 21 independent school districts, each with its own multi-tiered management system. Therein lies the problem. Too much money is spent on management and not enough on teachers. We have been using basically the same system to educate our children for over 50 years, and that is not likely to change because each of the independent districts is not willing to give up their management and taxing authority over their little fiefdoms, even if it were to benefit the students.Charter schools spurred by a voucher system would create unnecessary competition for students and teachers between the two entities. — John H. Brown, Arlington Competition is a good thing. While an amount of school funding would be transferred to a voucher program, it should not necessarily negatively affect sufficient public school funding.School funding is, or should be, based on individual student attendance. Students using vouchers would take only a proportional amount a school receives for any other student.Fewer students mean fewer teachers, less overhead and resulting costs. But vouchers might also result in better overall education for all students. — Richard M. Holbrook, Weatherford
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