Letter To the Editor: Leeson wrong about school vouchers.

Letter To the Editor: Leeson wrong about school vouchers.

Published in the Lubbock Avalanche – Journal on October 21, 2016.

Jay Leeson recently argued that “school vouchers go against conservative principles.” He is wrong.

First, ESAs are fundamentally different than vouchers because they help pay for other critical expenses including tutoring, qualified educational therapies, online courses and transportation, among others.

ESAs are not a new “entitlement” as they simply would provide flexibility in how existing funds are used. Allowing some educational funding to be deposited in an ESA to give parents the option to choose educational services that best fits the needs of their children is in accordance with the Texas Constitution and sound policy.

 Mr. Leeson claims public dollars would make up the difference in an ESA account because many Texans do not pay enough in property taxes or sales taxes to fully fund the annual per-capita cost of education. But taxpayer money already makes up the difference within the existing school finance system. No change here, either. Importantly, even with an optional ESA program in place, traditional public schools will continue to be paid 100 percent for every student who enrolls, which is how the system works today.

Mr. Leeson is wrong on the question of rural benefits through school choice. In Lubbock, for example, there are at least 10 private schools, and there is the prospect that new private schools could open in rural areas in response to optional ESAs. The existing private schools could be options for students, not to mention digital education and homeschooling. Home school parents are among those who pay generously into the system of public education but derive no direct benefit. Indeed, the Texas Home School Coalition strongly supports ESAs.

What matters most is the impact of education choice. A 2016 examination of 18 empirical studies by the Friedman Foundation found showed that 14 school choice programs improved academic outcomes for students. Thirty-three empirical studies demonstrated school choice’s positive effects on student outcomes in public schools.

Conservative leaders like Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are strong advocates for education choice because it improves academic outcomes for students. It has worked other states including Florida and Arizona, and it will work in Texas.

JOHN D. COLYANDRO and RUSSELL H. WITHERS

Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute, a public policy foundation based in Austin.