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A Message on Vouchers from Superintendent Dr. Jim F. Chadwell

Dear Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD Community,

This message comes with a sense of urgency on actions in our state legislature of which all Texans should take notice. The Texas Legislature has begun a special session promoted, in part, as a focus on public education. Unfortunately, the focus is not about providing adequate funding or support for public education, but rather how to deconstruct public education in Texas through the implementation of school vouchers/education savings accounts. No matter what it is called, vouchers divert public school funds to subsidize private and home schools. 

Every parent chooses the type of education that is best for their children and those choices should be respected. However, the responsibility of paying for non-public school alternatives has rested on us as parents and not on the State or other taxpayers. Public schools were created at the beginning of our country and our state to provide a free and appropriate public education for all children. In Texas, our schools are governed by the State and our locally elected Trustees. Article 7, Section 1 of the Texas Constitution states, “A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”

What is being considered now by our Legislature is a significant shift in how and why we fund education in Texas. Even with the push for vouchers, increasing state funding for the basic allotment (the funding we receive per child in the district) to pay for salaries, supplies, and utilities is not being addressed. The basic allotment of $6,160 per student has not increased since 2019. During that same time, inflation has increased approximately 19%. In EMS ISD, this has directly affected our ability to increase educator pay enough to keep up with the cost-of-living increases and has required us to freeze positions at all levels from the classroom to central office. This has resulted in an unavoidable increase in our student:teacher ratios. Even more frustrating is the fact that the Legislature began their work in January 2023 with a $37 billion budget surplus. As of October 13, 2023, that surplus has not been used to provide adequate funding for our public schools. There is currently $10 billion of available funding remaining that has not been allocated. It is estimated by school finance experts that it would take an increase of $1,000 on the basic allotment to simply catch up with inflation since 2019. We are waiting for the State to acknowledge this shortfall and to address funding with a permanent increase.

Now, the legislature is in another special-called session. Since it’s not included as a topic for the session, they cannot approve legislation to adequately fund our public schools unless it is added by the Governor. They are authorized, however, to approve legislation to divert funds away from our public schools in the form of vouchers toward private and home schools. Here are some other facts that are important to keep in mind: 

  • Public schools admit every child. Private schools may choose who to accept and who not to admit.
  • Public schools have public accountability for academic and financial performance. Private schools are not held to the same financial or academic accountability standards as public schools. Student academic performance in private schools is not required to be publicly reported like public schools.
  • The recommended voucher of $8,000 would not provide enough funding for a student to attend the average-priced private school. In Tarrant County, the average cost to attend a private school is $14,993 (according to an analysis provided in the Fort Worth Report).
  • In other states with voucher programs, in general, student academic achievement has not improved. In fact, in many states, voucher programs have led to a decline in achievement.
  • Students lose many of their federal protections in attending a private school, such as those students with disabilities or need for special accommodations.
  • Vouchers are bad for both private and home schools. By design, these schools are understandably free to design their curriculum and set student requirements based on their specific standards and expectations. However, in many states with voucher programs, over time those entities had to conform to similar standards as their public school counterparts. The Governor stated early in 2023 that he would expect these schools to have public accountability systems if they accept vouchers; however, that has not been required in any legislation presented. Private and home schools serve a specific purpose for specific students and should not be required to conform to state standards. However, with public funding would eventually come public accountability for private and home schools.

The Governor and state leaders believe they can use political pressure to pass school vouchers. Legislators have been threatened with primary election opponents if they do not vote in favor of vouchers. But we have a voice too, and it is past time for public school educators and communities to speak up – to stand up for the children in our schools now and for the generations that will follow. Some are counting on us to be too busy and too distracted to take action. But we must let our legislators know that we stand behind them and expect them to vote NO on vouchers. I am asking you to be informed of this threat to the public education system in Texas that would negatively affect our students and to take action today to preserve the system that develops the leaders and workforce of tomorrow. Our very future as an educated, prosperous society depends on it. When writing, please consider starting by thanking our legislators for their service to our state, and then letting them know why it is so important for them to support public schools that serve all Texas children with a high-quality education, and not subsidize private schools. For contact information for our state representatives and leaders, please visit   

If you would like to know more about vouchers, please consider reading an essay I wrote in the spring of 2023 entitled “A 21st Century Titanic” or watch a recent interview I had with District Administrator magazine. I know this is a lot to ask during such a busy time of the school year, but truly the future of public education in Texas is at stake right now. If you have any questions or would like more information about this, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. 


Dr. Jim F. Chadwell