North Texas Schools Weigh In on School Choice Debate

Districts across North Texas are speaking out about the possibility of school choice in Texas.

Public school districts in Dallas County, Tarrant County, Collin County, and Denton County are closely monitoring Senate Bill 3, which pushes Education Savings Accounts.

In Dallas ISD, Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa believes school choice would directly affect resources in the classroom. The biggest concern are vouchers and the lack of accountability Education Savings Accounts would bring.

“It would take founding away from public schools," Hinojosa said. "We would have less money per students and therefore, we would have to figure out how to redistribute funds. 85 percent of our money comes from people. Between salary and payroll, there would be drastic changes.”

Public schools are funding 10 percent through federal dollars, and the rest of the funding largely comes from state and local dollars.

Income, sales, and property taxes all contribute to state and local funding. The adoption of Senate Bill 3 would allow households to use tax money on charter, private, or home school.

NBC 5 reached out to several North Texas school districts. Official responses are listed below:

Missy Bender, President, Plano ISD Board of Trustees:

“School funding and transparency in taxation are important priorities for the Plano ISD Board of Trustees this legislative session. As a board, we oppose the use of public funds for vouchers, tax credits, education savings grants, portability measures or any other mechanisms to privatize public education. This redirection of funds seems to be another state revenue stream cloaked in the Trojan Horse of school choice. We cannot yet tell from the financial information presented in Senate Bill 3 what the precise financial implications will be, but our concern in Plano ISD is that for the average Plano ISD student that receives a voucher, our taxpayers will have to pay over $6,600 more to the state via the recapture system.

Since the state will only be paying a portion of that to the student, it raises the question as to what the state plans to do with the rest of the money they would take from our taxpayers. It’s bad enough that they would take money away from public schools to give to private schools, but they definitely need to be transparent and tell our taxpayers what they plan to do with that extra money.

Along those same lines, our board is supporting a grassroots effort called ‘Taxparency,’ initiated by a collaboration of Texas public school districts acting on behalf of their schools and communities who expect tax dollars paid to their school district to be used in public education. Plano ISD residents continue to affirm their expectation that education remain a top priority, evident in their favorable votes in a 2013 Tax Ratification Election and a 2016 Bond Election. This legislative session, we plan to keep our constituency informed about how their tax dollars are being spent, including how recaptured funds have benefited the state’s general revenue fund rather than school district operating budgets.”

Dr. Jamie Wilson, Denton ISD Superintendent

“At a time when the Texas Public Supreme Court has ruled that the way the state funds public education is byzantine, at best, we join many other Texas public school districts in opposing any diversion of public funds for vouchers, tax credits and education savings grants that take away from public education. Public education is about choice as families often have the ability to choose which school their child attends by purchasing or leasing a home in a community of their choice. Denton ISD provides the families that choose our district many academic and extra-curricular choices within our framework that enhance their child’s education because we want all of our students to be successful now and into the future."

David Hicks, Highland Park ISD spokesman:

"We are concerned that, by allowing parents to use public tax dollars to pay for private or home schooling, fewer tax dollars would be available for public schools. Given that the state has approximately $2.7 billion less to spend on its budget this biennium, it honestly doesn’t appear possible in any way to create Education Savings Accounts without taking dollars away from public education." David Hicks, Highland Park ISD spokesman

Clint Bond, Fort Worth ISD spokesman:

“We are closely monitoring legislative issues such as this one for developments that impact our community. When both houses bring forth specific proposals from which we can develop a cogent position, we will certainly share that information with our District.”

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