Area districts oppose push toward ‘school choice’

February 14, 2017 GMT

Northwest Houston school districts are opposing a state and national push towards what’s been coined, “school choice.” District leadership across the region fear it would divert funds away from public education in the short and long-term.

School choice advocates propose something called an Educational Savings Account - a personal fund, tied to a child and managed by the parents. Families can use this fund to cover costs associated with education however they choose to pursue it.

Funds would be diverted from public schools to fill those accounts. Currently, a portion of Texas school funding is allocated on a per-student basis. If a student chooses to withdraw from public school, that student’s portion of funding would be redirected from the district and into their personal savings account.

They could then use that money to pay a portion of tuition in a private school, to buy books and curriculum for home schooling, to subscribe to online classes for virtual education, to hire a tutor or get therapy services for a special needs student.


Limited oversight would ensure the accounts were spent on education-related costs.

Opponents of school choice programs worry that public schools would lose funding, that the resultant drop in quality would prompt more students to leave, and that a further decrease in funding would follow.

“Klein ISD opposes the use of vouchers, tuition tax credits, education savings accounts (ESAs) and other programs that divert public school tax dollars away from the Texas students who attend public schools,” said Judy Rimato, the district’s Associate Superintendent of Communications and Planning.

“There is no benefit to public schools with a voucher or ESA program,” she said. “Public dollars could be diverted to private institutions that are not held to the same accountability standards and entrance requirements.”

In nearby Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, the sentiment is similar.

The district aims to support school choice that “ensures uniform standards and requirements for all school systems receiving state funds,” said director for communication, Stephanie A. Migl.

She said Cy-Fair ISD will “oppose legislation that diverts funding from public schools,” adding that it would not support the passage of such a bill or law.

Further north, Tomball ISD views school choice similarly.

“School choice/voucher legislation will deplete resources available to the state for public education. We continue to monitor legislative issues so we can communicate with our parents and staff as to how legislation will impact our school district,” said Tomball ISD spokeswoman Staci Stanfield in an email. “For several years, public schools have faced a funding crisis. We would like to see positive legislation in support of public schools rather than a funding system that supports school vouchers.”


At Magnolia ISD, superintendent Todd Stephens continues the trend of district leaders in opposition to a shift towards “school choice.”

“The state currently has one system of public education that they cannot adequately fund. Any attempt to create vouchers or educational savings accounts would create a second fund the state cannot support,” he said.

In Spring ISD, the approach is about focusing on the students in the district, said district spokeswoman Karen Garrison. She touches on expanded courses, programs, and offerings that the district provides to try to cater to students’ interests and aspirations.

“Regardless of any public discussion or debate about school choice, in Spring ISD our focus is on what is best for the students who have been entrusted to us,” Garrison said.

Rimato, like other regional education leaders, sees politics more than substance beneath the push towards “school choice.”

“Vouchers and ESAs are promoted to the public as a way for students in ‘failing’ schools to have the opportunity to attend a high-quality school of their choice,” she said. “The state, however, already has a mechanism in place for students to transfer from a ‘failing’ public school to another school within the school district.”