LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) – Days before the Texas Legislature meets to consider Gov. Greg Abbott’s call for education savings accounts (ESA), the Leander Independent School District Board of Trustees voted Thursday night to oppose any type of voucher, including ESAs.
“We want to make sure we are focusing all of our attention on meeting the needs of each students that is living in our boundaries that wants to come to public school. I don’t mind school choice but I do mind when public dollars are taken away to pay for that choice,” said Leander ISD Superintendent Bruce Gearing.
The district also called for updates to the Texas school finance system, including funding based on enrollment and an increase to special education funding to account for was actual spending by school districts. For example, Leander ISD said it spent $33 million more special education in 2022-2023 than was allocated because of what it called the “outdated special education allotment”.
Education Savings Accounts
Education savings accounts would use state money to subsidize tuition for families who want to send their children to private school. The issue has long been a top promise of the governor and Lt. Gov. Patrick, but has failed to gain support in the Texas House.
In the regular legislative session, the Texas Senate passed a bill that would give eligible families $8,000 to spend on alternate educational expenses such as private school tuition or homeschooling materials. That plan would cost nearly $5 billion over five years, and encountered bipartisan opposition in the House.
Democrats stand uniformly against the idea, citing concerns the program would take money from public education.
“I reject voucher gimmicks that would take any more money out of our neighborhood schools where the vast majority of Texas students are educated. It’s time for Governor Abbott to do his job and fully fund the public education of 5.4 million Texas school children,” State Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, said in a statement released by the House Democratic Caucus.
Rural Republicans also oppose such a voucher program, worried the plan will send state money to private schools far from their districts.
Gov. Abbott has pledged to pass his ‘school choice’ plan at all costs, threatening to call a fourth special session or target opposing Republicans in primary elections if they can’t deliver a bill.