LETTER: Public Education First

Bryan Webb

Texas Students, the Public Schools they attend, the Teachers who educate them and the Parents who raise them, Demand our Support. 

Earlier this year, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) introduced SB-3.  The bill would shift tax dollars that support Public School Students to students attending Private Schools.  These Private Schools have little if any state oversight.

According to Texas Education Agency, Texas has 5.2 million students enrolled in public schools.  Interestingly, TEA doesn’t know how many students are enrolled in private schools.  It’s not something they track.  They referred me to a private association to try and get that number.  They did not have it either.  Based on estimates I’ve heard, from 5% – 10% of all students, it is safe to say there are about 390,000 private school students.

SB-3 will provide at least $5,400 to every newly enrolled private school student.  You may ask, ‘how could that be bad?’, and that is a fair question.  30,000 new students enroll in private schools each year.  Dan Patrick thinks SB-3 will attract another 15,000.  Each of these 45,000 will receive $5,400 per year.  Over the course of the next thirteen years (K-12) and without any growth in the overall number of students attending private schools, SB-3 will be providing support to 585,000 students.

First year cost, best case scenario would be $243 million (45,000 students x $5,400).  Second year cost $486 million, and it only goes up from there.  By the time a child who enrolls in a private kindergarten graduates from a private high school, the state of Texas will be spending over $3.1 billion a year.

These are big numbers, and sometimes it’s hard to grasp what they mean or what their impact is.  Let me try to bring them into scale. If SB-3 is ever fully implemented,

  • Lewisville ISD could lose $2.5 million in the first year, enough to support 290 students
    • About half of Old Settlers Elementary School
  • By Year 13, the total is over $32 million, 3,800 students,
    • The combined enrollment of all Flower Mound middle schools is 3,867.

If SB-3 becomes law, LISD will have to find a way to support every Flower Mound middle school student.  That will require the district to make many hard choices.  Choices that may include:

  • Fewer course offerings – special programs.  LEAP, Theater, Languages, AP?
  • Fewer extra-curricular activities.  Volleyball, Track, Robotics, Chess?
  • Higher fees for activities that survive.  If you can’t afford it, do your kids play?
  • Higher Student / Teacher ratios.  How many more state exemptions?
  • Lower School Ratings.  Class size matters as do course offerings
  • Lower property values.  Quality of schools drive home values.

Basically everything that helps to improve student performance will be negatively impacted.

The bottom line is SB-3 will not improve education in Texas, it will cripple it.  You don’t divert $3.1 billion from neighborhood schools to private schools without doing serious damage. And without oversight, we will never know how much damage is done.  Remember TEA doesn’t know how many students attend private schools.

If you agree that SB-3 is bad for Texas Students, Texas Teachers, Texas Schools and the State of Texas STAND UP AND MAKE SOME NOISE.

Resistance to SB-3 is building in Austin, but until session ends, it can still be slipped through.  Senator Don Huffines, a bill sponsor, feels so passionate about the bill he berated a room full of middle school students this week.  Senator Jane Nelson’s office does not know her position on the bill.

Our Senators and our Representatives need to hear from us.  All of Us!  They need to know what we think.  They need to know today.  Please make your call now.

Bryan C. Webb

Flower Mound, TX

CTG Staff
The Cross Timbers Gazette is a locally-owned and operated regional newspaper and website covering community news and people in southern Denton County, TX, including the communities of Argyle, Bartonville, Canyon Falls, Copper Canyon, Double Oak, Flower Mound, Harvest, Highland Village, Lantana and Robson Ranch.

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