Amarillo, TX - Amarillo schools are jumping on board the growing resistance toward the controversial school voucher program.
Thursday evening (Jan. 31), Amarillo board members voted to join a resolution to support anti-voucher legislation in the 83rd legislative session. They say such a move is necessary to maintain the viability of our schools across the state and right here in Amarillo.
School vouchers have been around for almost 50 years now, but so far the idea hasn't gained much traction in Texas - and AISD board president Jim Austin tells me the opposition goes back to the Texas Constitution.
"The idea, the original concept, was that we would have public education," says Austin. "And so vouchers, giving people the choice as to where they send their kids to school, I think breaches the original idea of our state constitution."
Public education is by far the largest single expense in our state budget, accounting for about 40 percent of the total - in Amarillo, it costs taxpayers about $5,400 dollars per student in education.
Proponents of the voucher program argue the system gives parents more choice in how to educate their children. but critics say using public money to fund private education would only serve to exacerbate our public schools' budget woes, after last year's legislature slashed $5.4 billion from education.
"One of the reasons that we are who we are in Texas is because of the commitment we have to educate our children," contends Austin. "And to diminish or dilute that effort in public education, I don't think is in the best interest of our state and in the best interest of our children."
So far no legislation addressing school vouchers has been introduced, but Senator Dan Patrick of Houston has indicated he will introduce an anti-voucher bill in this session.