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School vouchers get some East Texas support, but specifics in question

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Published: May. 19, 2022 at 10:51 AM CDT|Updated: May. 19, 2022 at 7:21 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Governor Greg Abbott and some state officials are ready to move forward with school choice.

“We can fully fund public schools while also giving parents a choice about which school is right for their child,” Abbott said during a campaign event last week in San Antonio. “Empowering parents means giving them the choice to send their children to any public school, charter school or private school with state funding following the student.”

“Historically, I’ve always voted against. Not school choice, we have school choice right now.” Representative Travis Clardy said. “I am for what is going to work. What is going to provide the best education to best prepare young Texans for the rest of their lives with a quality education.”

Clardy said he is open to see the plan and decide from there. “If there is a way we can provide a better product, not cause tax payers more money, and not harm and hopefully benefit the counties like Nacogdoches, Panola, and Rusk, Cherokee county I represent, Sabine and Shelby, I’m all ears.”

“I support school choice. I think it needs to be a win-win for every student,” Rep. Matt Schaefer said. “For me, I’d like to see a model where there’s some kind of financial for a family to be able to add value to their student’s education.”

With Abbott advocating for school choice on the campaign trail, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said he would also support a measure. In a radio interview earlier this month, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan said he would allow such a vote to take place on the House floor.

“You have to have a school choice model that keeps your commitment to public schools and that’s where the challenge comes in because it requires money to run our schools and there is a limited amount of money in the state of Texas so the devil really is in the details,” Schaefer said.

Stanley Cofer
Stanley Cofer(KLTV)

Stanley Cofer is an East Texas grandparent of 11 children. In the past, Cofer feared vouchers could hurt public schools.

“Now, with a lot of things going on in the school systems that is against our, many conservatives beliefs, that attitude has changed,” Cofer said.

With vouchers, he could choose to help send the kids to a private school that teaches his Christian beliefs.. The same beliefs Clardy questions whether or not will remain if vouchers are approved.

“Once you take government money whether it be from the state or certainly from the feds, well what strings come attached with that?” Clardy said. “Is this going to impede their ability to teach their mission?”

Bishop Gorman Catholic School principal John Kimec says this will not be the case.

Bishop Gorman Catholic School Principal John Kimec
Bishop Gorman Catholic School Principal John Kimec(KLTV)

“The funding doesn’t go to the school,” he said. “It follows the individual student and the family so there wouldn’t be any implications in terms of curriculum so it would allow us to remain completely true to what our curriculum is and for Gorman as it stands right now it would allow us to continue to incorporate our Catholic identity.”

On the other hand, Lindale ISD Superintendent Stan Surratt says if there is government funding, private schools would be faced with the same accountability.

Stan Surratt
Stan Surratt(KLTV)

“It’d certainly be fairer wouldn’t it?” Surratt said. “That if state funding is going to private schools, they’d have the same accountability.”

Clardy said school vouchers “would have a more direct link to particular students and it would enable their parents potentially make decisions that they think serve their children well.”

Kimec said that would improve enrollment.

“Open it up to a whole pocket of people who maybe presently can’t afford to be here,” he said.

Surratt says Texans should question that.

“Do we want to pay for people choosing private schools?” he said.

The details of the program funding have not been decided.

“When you take money out of the public education system, which I believe this would do, where is that made up?” Surratt said.

So schools, parents, and representatives will now wait for the details.

“It requires money to run our schools and there is a limited amount of money in the state of Texas and so the devil really is in the details,” Schaefer said.

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